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A unitary account of conceptual representations of animate/inanimate categories

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2010
Issue number2
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)155-165
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this paper we present an ERP study examining the underlying nature of semantic representation of animate and inanimate objects. Time-locking ERP signatures to the onset of auditory stimuli we found topological similarities in animate and inanimate object processing. Moreover, we found no difference between animates and inanimates in the N400 amplitude, when mapping more specific to more general representation (visual to auditory stimuli). These studies provide further evidence for the theory of unitary semantic organization, but no support for the feature-based prediction of segregated conceptual organization.

Further comparisons of animate vs. inanimate matches and within-vs. between-category mismatches revealed following results: processing of animate matches elicited more positivity than processing of inanimates within the N400 time-window; also, inanimate mismatches elicited a stronger N400 than did animate mismatches. Based on these findings we argue that one of the possible explanations for finding different and sometimes contradictory results in the literature regarding processing and representations of animates and inanimates in the brain could lie in the variability of selected items within each of the categories, that is, homogeneity of the categories.