Analytical and holistic approaches influence the semantic integration: Evidence from the N400 effect

Nerea Aldunate, Vladimir López, Carlos Cornejo, Cristóbal Moënne-Loccoz, David Carré

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The present study explores the influence of the analytical and holistic approaches on semantic integration of literal and metaphorical sentences. We recorded ERP to compare brain responses to literal (e.g. Mosquitoes are insects) and metaphorical (e.g. Mosquitoes are vampires) sentences, preceded by two types of interpretative cues to encourage literal comprehension (e.g. 'By definition', analytical approach), or figurative comprehension (e.g. 'In some sense', holistic approach). Participants were asked to classify all sentences according to whether they made sense to them or not. The N400 effect elicited by the critical word in literal and metaphorical sentences was analyzed considering the induced approach. Additionally, the ERP activity elicited during the exposure of the stem sentence was also analyzed to evaluate the potential impact of both approaches on context processing. N400 effect usually reported for metaphorical words was only observed in the analytical comprehension condition, not in the holistic one, resulting in a significant interaction effect (Congruency x Approach) due to larger amplitudes for metaphors when analytically approached. The ERP response to the stem sentences was also affected by the approach, exhibiting a larger Contingent Negative Variation (CNV-like) in the analytical condition. The obtained results suggest (1) that the classically reported N400 effect for metaphoricity, can be affected by the subject's approach to language comprehension, influencing semantic integration, and (2) CNV-like modulation before critical word reflects that the approach also affects processing of linguistic context, prior to target processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-241
Number of pages25
JournalRevista Signos
Issue number100
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Domingo Rom?n and Phonetics Laboratory of the Pontificia Universidad Cat?lica de Chile, who loaned us their equipment to build, record and edit the stimuli; and Himmler Olivares, who was the voice. In addition, we thank Camilo Quezada for his contributions, reviews and comments on the article. This work was supported by the Comisi?n Nacional de Investigaci?n Cient?fica y Tecnol?gica(CONICYT); under Grant Beca de Apoyo a la Realizaci?n de Tesis Doctoral 24091105; andGrant Inserci?n a la Academia 79140067 (PAI).

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica(CONICYT); under Grant Beca de Apoyo a la Realización de Tesis Doctoral 24091105; andGrant Inserción a la Academia 79140067 (PAI).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 PUCV.


  • Analytic approach
  • CNV
  • Holistic approach
  • N400
  • Semantic integration


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