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Limits on prediction in language comprehension: A multi-lab failure to replicate evidence for probabilistic pre-activation of phonology

Nieuwland, MS; Politzer - Ahles, S; Heyselaar, E; Segaert, K; Darley, E; Kazanina, N; Von Grebmer Zu Wolfsthurn, S; ... Huettig, F; + view all (2017) Limits on prediction in language comprehension: A multi-lab failure to replicate evidence for probabilistic pre-activation of phonology. BioRxiv: Cold Spring Harbor, NY, USA. Green open access

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Abstract

In current theories of language comprehension, people routinely and implicitly predict upcoming words by pre-activating their meaning, morpho-syntactic features and even their specific phonological form. To date the strongest evidence for this latter form of linguistic prediction comes from a 2005 Nature Neuroscience landmark publication by DeLong, Urbach and Kutas, who observed a graded modulation of article- and noun-elicited electrical brain potentials (N400) by the pre-determined probability that people continue a sentence fragment with that word ('cloze'). In a direct replication study spanning 9 laboratories (N=334), we failed to replicate the crucial article-elicited N400 modulation by cloze, while we successfully replicated the commonly-reported noun-elicited N400 modulation. This pattern of failure and success was observed in a pre-registered replication analysis, a pre-registered single-trial analysis, and in exploratory Bayesian analyses. Our findings do not support a strong prediction view in which people routinely pre-activate the phonological form of upcoming words, and suggest a more limited role for prediction during language comprehension.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Limits on prediction in language comprehension: A multi-lab failure to replicate evidence for probabilistic pre-activation of phonology
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1101/111807
Publisher version: http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/02/25/11...
Language: English
Additional information: The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder. It is made available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1547538
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