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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Early Analogical Extensions: An ERP Study on Preschoolers' Semantic Approximations

  • Author(s): Raynal, Lucas
  • Clément, Evelyne
  • Sander, Emmanuel
  • Rämä, Pia
  • Goyet, Louise
  • et al.

This study investigates whether the ERPs of 4-years-olds in response to verbal overextensions reflect the encoding of actions through abstract categories. Participants were presented with images of actions (e.g. peeling an orange) while hearing a sentence containing a conventional verb (e.g. peeling), an approximative verb (e.g. undressing), a superficially related verb (e.g. pressing) or a pseudoverb (e.g. rauging). The N400 for approximative verbs significantly differed from the pseudoverb condition, but not from the conventional verb condition. In contrast, the N400 for superficially related verbs was significantly greater than for conventional verbs, but no significant difference was found with the pseudoverb condition. These results confirm our hypothesis that encoding mainly focuses on general categories (e.g. taking of an envelope). The implications of the findings are discussed regarding the conceptual organization of preschoolers and their analogical abilities.

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