A cross-modal symbolic paradigm was used to elicit EEG activity related to semantic incongruence. Twenty-five undergraduate students viewed pairings of visual lexical cues (e.g., DOG) with congruent (50% of trials) or incongruent (50%) auditory nonlexical stimuli (animal vocalizations; e.g., sound of a dog woofing or a cat meowing). In one condition, many different pairs of congruent/incongruent stimuli were shown, whereas in a second condition only two pairs of stimuli were repeatedly shown. A typical N400-like pattern of incongruence-related activity (including activity in the N2 time window) was evident in the condition using many stimuli, whereas the incongruence-related activity in the two-stimuli condition was confined to differential N2-like activity. A supplementary analysis excluded stimulus characteristics as the source of this differential activity between conditions. We found that a single individual performing a fixed task can demonstrate either a protracted N400-like pattern of activity or a more temporally focused N2-like pattern of activity in response to the same stimulus, which suggests that the N2 may be a precursor to the protracted N400 response.
- Semantic memory