Predictive pre-activation of orthographic and lexical-semantic representations facilitates visual word recognition

  • To a crucial extent, the efficiency of reading results from the fact that visual word recognition is faster in predictive contexts. Predictive coding models suggest that this facilitation results from pre-activation of predictable stimulus features across multiple representational levels before stimulus onset. Still, it is not sufficiently understood which aspects of the rich set of linguistic representations that are activated during reading – visual, orthographic, phonological, and/or lexical-semantic – contribute to context-dependent facilitation. To investigate in detail which linguistic representations are pre-activated in a predictive context and how they affect subsequent stimulus processing, we combined a well-controlled repetition priming paradigm, including words and pseudowords (i.e., pronounceable nonwords), with behavioral and magnetoencephalography measurements. For statistical analysis, we used linear mixed modeling, which we found had a higher statistical power compared to conventional multivariate pattern decoding analysis. Behavioral data from 49 participants indicate that word predictability (i.e., context present vs. absent) facilitated orthographic and lexical-semantic, but not visual or phonological processes. Magnetoencephalography data from 38 participants show sustained activation of orthographic and lexical-semantic representations in the interval before processing the predicted stimulus, suggesting selective pre-activation at multiple levels of linguistic representation as proposed by predictive coding. However, we found more robust lexical-semantic representations when processing predictable in contrast to unpredictable letter strings, and pre-activation effects mainly resembled brain responses elicited when processing the expected letter string. This finding suggests that pre-activation did not result in ‘explaining away’ predictable stimulus features, but rather in a ‘sharpening’ of brain responses involved in word processing.

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Author:Susanne EisenhauerORCiDGND, Benjamin GaglORCiD, Christian FiebachORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):bioRxiv
Document Type:Preprint
Date of Publication (online):2021/09/24
Date of first Publication:2021/09/24
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2023/04/18
Page Number:66
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften / Psychologie
Angeschlossene und kooperierende Institutionen / MPI für Hirnforschung
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY-NC-ND - Namensnennung - Nicht kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitungen 4.0 International