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Dholakia, A., Meade, G., & Coch, D. (2016). The N400 elicited by homonyms in puns: two primes are not better than one. Psychophysiology. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12762
To comprehend a pun involving a homonym (e.g., The prince with a bad tooth got a crown), both meanings of the homonym must be accessed and selected. Here, we investigated the N400 elicited by homonyms in the unique context of puns. N400 priming effects showed that the dual context of puns (e.g., the primes prince and tooth) did not facilitate homonym processing in comparison to single dominant biasing (e.g., The prince with a bad leg got a crown) or subordinate biasing (e.g., The adult with a bad tooth got a crown) conditions. However, homonyms did elicit a less negative N400 (i.e., priming) in the pun condition in comparison to the neutral context condition (e.g., The adult with a bad leg got a crown). These findings are consistent with the dominant advantage and subordinate bias effect posited by the reordered access model of homonym processing. N400 amplitude may be an index of how consistently various sources of semantic featural information converge on one lexical item, even when two lexical items must be activated for comprehension.
This was a senior honors thesis with the undergraduate listed as first author.
Article in Psychophysiology
Abstract and pdf at Wiley Online Library (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psyp.12762/abstract;jsessionid=93B8DB9613D55CD33887C4FE3BB3F3E7.f03t04)