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Speed-accuracy tradeoffs in brain and behavior: testing the independence of P300 and N400 related processes in behavioral responses to sentence categorization

  • Although the N400 was originally discovered in a paradigm designed to elicit a P300 (Kutas and Hillyard, 1980), its relationship with the P300 and how both overlapping event-related potentials (ERPs) determine behavioral profiles is still elusive. Here we conducted an ERP (N = 20) and a multiple-response speed-accuracy tradeoff (SAT) experiment (N = 16) on distinct participant samples using an antonym paradigm (The opposite of black is white/nice/yellow with acceptability judgment). We hypothesized that SAT profiles incorporate processes of task-related decision-making (P300) and stimulus-related expectation violation (N400). We replicated previous ERP results (Roehm et al., 2007): in the correct condition (white), the expected target elicits a P300, while both expectation violations engender an N400 [reduced for related (yellow) vs. unrelated targets (nice)]. Using multivariate Bayesian mixed-effects models, we modeled the P300 and N400 responses simultaneously and found that correlation between residuals and subject-level random effects of each response window was minimal, suggesting that the components are largely independent. For the SAT data, we found that antonyms and unrelated targets had a similar slope (rate of increase in accuracy over time) and an asymptote at ceiling, while related targets showed both a lower slope and a lower asymptote, reaching only approximately 80% accuracy. Using a GLMM-based approach (Davidson and Martin, 2013), we modeled these dynamics using response time and condition as predictors. Replacing the predictor for condition with the averaged P300 and N400 amplitudes from the ERP experiment, we achieved identical model performance. We then examined the piecewise contribution of the P300 and N400 amplitudes with partial effects (see Hohenstein and Kliegl, 2015). Unsurprisingly, the P300 amplitude was the strongest contributor to the SAT-curve in the antonym condition and the N400 was the strongest contributor in the unrelated condition. In brief, this is the first demonstration of how overlapping ERP responses in one sample of participants predict behavioral SAT profiles of another sample. The P300 and N400 reflect two independent but interacting processes and the competition between these processes is reflected differently in behavioral parameters of speed and accuracy.

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Author:Phillip M. Alday, Franziska KretzschmarGND
Parent Title (English):Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2019
Date of Publication (online):2020/12/16
Tag:N400; P300; SAT; mixed-effects modeling; predictive processing; sentence processing
GND Keyword:Experimentelle Psychologie; Kognitive Linguistik; Neurolinguistik; Psycholinguistik; Sprachverarbeitung <Psycholinguistik>
Issue:Article 285
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Linguistics-Classification:Psycholinguistik / Kognitive Linguistik
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International