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

Lien, Mei-Ching; Ruthruff, Eric; Cornett, Logan; Goodin, Zachary; Allen, Philip A.
J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform ; 34(3): 751-73, 2008 Jun.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-18505335
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 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.