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The use of conceptual components in language production: an ERP study


According to frame-theory, concepts can be represented as structured frames that contain conceptual attributes (e.g., ‘color’) and their values (e.g., ‘red’). A particular color value can be seen as a core conceptual component for high color-diagnostic (HCD) objects (e.g., bananas) which are strongly associated with a typical color, but less so for low color-diagnostic (LCD) objects (e.g., bicycles) that exist in many different colors. To investigate whether the availability of a core conceptual component (color) affects lexical access in language production, we conducted two experiments on the naming of visually presented HCD and LCD objects. Experiment 1 showed that, when naming latencies were matched for colored HCD and LCD objects, achromatic HCD objects were named more slowly than achromatic LCD objects. In Experiment 2 we recorded ERPs while participants performed a picture-naming task, in which achromatic target pictures were either preceded by an appropriately colored box (primed condition) or a black and white checkerboard (unprimed condition). We focused on the P2 component, which has been shown to reflect difficulty of lexical access in language production. Results showed that high color-diagnosticity resulted in slower object-naming and a more pronounced P2. Priming also yielded a more positive P2 but did not result in an RT difference. ERP waveforms on the P1, P2 and N300 components showed a priming by color-diagnosticity interaction, the effect of color priming being stronger for HCD objects than for LCD objects. The effect of color-diagnosticity on the P2 component suggests that the slower naming of achromatic HCD objects is (at least in part) due to more difficult lexical retrieval. Hence, the color attribute seems to affect lexical retrieval in HCD words. The interaction between priming and color-diagnosticity indicates that priming with a feature hinders lexical access, especially if the feature is a core feature of the target object.

Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences