The role of affective meaning, semantic associates, and orthographic neighbours in modulating the N400 in single words

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The N400 has been seen to be larger for concrete thanabstract words, and for pseudowords than real words. Using a word vectoranalysis to calculate semantic associates (SA), as well as ratings foremotional arousal (EA), and a measure of orthographic neighbourhood (ON), thepresent study investigated the relation between these factors and N400 amplitudes during a lexical decision task usingSwedish word stimuli. Four noun categories differing in concreteness: specific(squirrel), general (animal) emotional (happiness) and abstract (tendency) werecompared with pseudowords (danalod). Results showed that N400 amplitudes increased in the order emotional < abstract < general < specific < pseudoword. A regression analysis showed that the amplitude ofthe N400 decreased the more semanticassociates a word had and the higher the rating for emotional arousal it had.The N400 also increased the moreorthographic neighbours a word had. Results provide support for thehierarchical organisation of concrete words assumed in lexical semantics. They also demonstrate how affectiveinformation facilitates meaning processing.


External organisations
  • Linnaeus University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)


  • concreteness; emotional arousal; semantic specificity; semantic associates; orthographic neighbours: ERP; N400; lexical decision, word vector
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-188
Number of pages27
JournalThe Mental Lexicon
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov
Publication categoryResearch

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