On the nonautomaticity of visual word processing: Electrophysiological evidence that word processing requires central attention

Mei-Ching Lien, Eric Ruthruff, Logan Cornett, Zachary Goodin, Philip A. Allen
2008 Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance  
The present study used event-related potentials (ERPs) to determine the degree to which people can process words while devoting central attention to another task. Experiments 1-4 measured the N400 effect, which is sensitive to the degree of mismatch between a word and the current semantic context. Experiment 5 measured the P3 difference between low-and high-frequency words. Because these effects can occur only if a word has been identified, both ERP components index word processing. The authors
more » ... found that the N400 effect (Experiments 1, 3, and 4) and the P3 difference (Experiment 5) were strongly attenuated for Task 2 words presented nearly simultaneously with Task 1. No such attenuation was found when the Task 1 stimulus was presented but required no response (Experiment 2). Strong attenuation was also evident when the Task 2 word was presented before the Task 1 stimulus (Experiment 4), suggesting that central resources are not allocated to stimuli first-come, first-served but rather are strategically locked to Task 1. The authors conclude that visual word processing is not fully automatic but rather requires access to limited central attentional resources.
doi:10.1037/0096-1523.34.3.751 pmid:18505335 fatcat:da25afvhszf6reidp2h67ljazy