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Semantic Elaboration: ERPs Reveal Rapid Transition From Novel to Known

Semantic Elaboration: ERPs Reveal Rapid Transition From Novel to Known

By Bauer, Patricia J., Jackson, Felicia L
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

Like language, semantic memory is productive: It extends itself through self-derivation of new information through logical processes such as analogy, deduction, and induction, for example. Though it is clear these productive processes occur, little is known about the time course over which newly self-derived information becomes incorporated into semantic knowledge. In the present research, we used event-related potentials to examine this dynamic process. Subjects were presented with separate but related facts that, when integrated with one another, supported generation of new information (Integration facts). After 2 400-ms presentations, P600 responses to Integration facts differed from responses to Novel facts and did not differ from responses to Well-known facts, suggesting that the newly self-derived information had been incorporated into the knowledge base. The finding of rapid transition from newly self-derived to well known helps explain the richness of semantic memory. By implication, it also may contribute to the absence of episodic information specifying when and where semantic contents were acquired. 

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