Lucía Vieitez
October 21, 2022
9:00 am

Lucía Vieitez

“Individual Differences in Grammatical and Emotional Processing”

Lucía Vieitez, PhD Student in the Procesos Cognitivos e Conduta group at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Visiting Scholar in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at Penn State

Friday, October 21 9:00–10:30 a.m. EDT 127 Moore Building and virtually via Zoom

Does emotionality affect how we process language? This question, while simple in appearance, has led to a prolific and extent body of literature in the field of linguistics and psycholinguistics for the past decades. Several ERP studies have used emotionality to shed some light on the debate between the modular and interactive models of language processing. However, their results are inconsistent, especially regarding unpleasant words. Some studies report interactive effects of emotionality and grammaticality, while others have failed to find evidence for this interaction. Interestingly, recent data from number agreement studies has shown that there are individual differences in how the human brain processes grammar. These individual differences challenge the functional interpretation of the Left Anterior Negativity (LAN) and the P600 (referred together as the “Biphasic Pattern”), two ERP components that have been commonly associated with morphosyntactic processing.

We designed a series of ERP gender agreement experiments where native Spanish speakers read grammatically correct and incorrect noun phrases (NPs; determiner + noun + adjective) in Spanish. In our last experiment, adjectives were either unpleasant (e.g., “podrida”; rotten) or neutral in valence (e.g., “redonda”; round), and matched or mismatched the gender of the determiner and the noun (e.g., “la manzana podrida” vs. *“el manzana podrida”; the rotten apple). Results regarding individual differences in grammatical and emotional processing found in the ERP data will be discussed, along with preliminary findings from our latest study and directions for further research.