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.
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