Do contextual diversity and word frequency facilitate lexical processing in the same way?

  • Tue 15 Dec 20

    13:00 - 14:00

  • Online


  • Event speaker

    Dr Marta Vergara-Martinez

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Psychology, Department of

  • Contact details

    Dr Giulia Poerio

Behavioural experiments have revealed that words appearing in many different contexts are responded to faster than words that appear in few contexts.

Although this contextual diversity (CD) effect has been found to be stronger than the word-frequency (WF) effect, it is a matter of debate whether the facilitative effects of CD and WF reflect the same underlying mechanisms. The analysis of the electrophysiological correlates of CD may shed some light on this issue.

We examined the ERPs to high- and low-CD words while WF was controlled for. Results revealed that while high-CD words produced faster responses than low-CD words (in line with high-frequency words compared to low-frequency words), their ERPs showed larger negativities (225–325 ms) than low-CD words. This result goes in the opposite direction of the ERP WF effect (high-frequency words elicit smaller N400 amplitudes than low-frequency words).

The direction and scalp distribution of the CD effect resembled the ERP effects associated with “semantic richness.” Thus, while apparently related, CD and WF originate from different sources during the access of lexical-semantic representations.


Dr Marta Vergara-Martinez is an Associate Professor at the University of Valencia.

How to attend

This seminar will be held on Zoom. To receive a Zoom link please email Dr Giulia Poerio (g.poerio@essex.ac.uk) or Dr Matteo Lisi (m.lisi@essex.ac.uk) with the date and title of the seminar you wish to attention.

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