Disentangling stimulus plausibility and contextual congruency: Electro-physiological evidence for differential cognitive dynamics

Moreno I Coco, Susana Araujo, Karl Magnus Petersson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Expectancy mechanisms are routinely used by the cognitive system in stimulus processing and in anticipation of appropriate responses. Electrophysiology research has documented negative shifts of brain activity when expectancies are violated within a local stimulus context (e.g., reading an implausible word in a sentence) or more globally between consecutive stimuli (e.g., a narrative of images with an incongruent end). In this EEG study, we examine the interaction between expectancies operating at the level of stimulus plausibility and at more global level of contextual congruency to provide evidence for, or against, a disassociation of the underlying processing mechanisms. We asked participants to verify the congruency of pairs of cross-modal stimuli (a sentence and a scene), which varied in plausibility. ANOVAs on ERP amplitudes in selected windows of interest show that congruency violation has longer-lasting (from 100 to 500ms) and more widespread effects than plausibility violation (from 200 to 400ms). We also observed critical interactions between these factors, whereby incongruent and implausible pairs elicited stronger negative shifts than their congruent counterpart, both early on (100-200ms) and between 400-500ms. Our results suggest that the integration mechanisms are sensitive to both global and local effects of expectancy in a modality independent manner. Overall, we provide novel insights into the interdependence of expectancy during meaning integration of cross-modal stimuli in a verification task.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-163
Number of pages14
Early online date11 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cross-modal verification
  • electro-physiology
  • stimulus processing
  • event plausibility
  • contextual congruency


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