Processing differences across regular and irregular inflections revealed through ERPs


Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Vol 41(3), 747-760


June, 2015


Rastle, K., Lavric, A., Elchlepp, H., and Crepaldi, D.

Research strongly suggests that printed words are recognized in terms of their constituent morphemes, but researchers have tended to consider the recognition of derivations and inflections in separate theoretical debates. Recently, Crepaldi et al. (2010) proposed a theory that claims to account for the recognition of both derivations and inflections. We investigated brain potentials in the context of masked priming to test two key predictions of this theory: (a) that regular inflections should prime their stems to a greater degree than irregular inflections should prime their stems; and (b) that priming for regular inflections should arise earlier in the recognition process than priming for irregular inflections. Significant masked priming effects were observed for both regular and irregular inflections, though these effects were greater for regular inflections. ERP data further suggested that masked priming effects for regular and irregular inflections had different time courses. Priming for regular but not irregular inflections emerged in a time window reflecting processing up to 250 ms post target onset, and while priming for regular and irregular inflections was observed in a time window reflecting processing 400-600 ms post target onset, these effects arose earlier and were of greater magnitude for the regular inflections. These findings support a form-then-meaning characterisation of the visual word processing system such as that proposed by Crepaldi et al. (2010) and raise challenges for alternative approaches.