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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Conceptual Integration of Arithmetic Operations With Real-World Knowledge: Evidence From Event-Related Potentials

  • Author(s): Guthormsen, AM
  • Fisher, KJ
  • Bassok, M
  • Osterhout, L
  • Dewolf, M
  • Holyoak, KJ
  • et al.

© 2016 Cognitive Science Society, Inc. Research on language processing has shown that the disruption of conceptual integration gives rise to specific patterns of event-related brain potentials (ERPs)-N400 and P600 effects. Here, we report similar ERP effects when adults performed cross-domain conceptual integration of analogous semantic and mathematical relations. In a problem-solving task, when participants generated labeled answers to semantically aligned and misaligned arithmetic problems (e.g., 6 roses + 2 tulips = ? vs. 6 roses + 2 vases = ?), the second object label in misaligned problems yielded an N400 effect for addition (but not division) problems. In a verification task, when participants judged arithmetically correct but semantically misaligned problem sentences to be "unacceptable," the second object label in misaligned sentences elicited a P600 effect. Thus, depending on task constraints, misaligned problems can show either of two ERP signatures of conceptual disruption. These results show that well-educated adults can integrate mathematical and semantic relations on the rapid timescale of within-domain ERP effects by a process akin to analogical mapping.

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