Concreteness effects in semantic processing: ERP evidence supporting dual-coding theory

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1994 Jul;20(4):804-23. doi: 10.1037//0278-7393.20.4.804.


Dual-coding theory argues that processing advantages for concrete over abstract (verbal) stimuli result from the operation of 2 systems (i.e., imaginal and verbal) for concrete stimuli, rather than just 1 (for abstract stimuli). These verbal and imaginal systems have been linked with the left and right hemispheres of the brain, respectively. Context-availability theory argues that concreteness effects result from processing differences in a single system. The merits of these theories were investigated by examining the topographic distribution of event-related brain potentials in 2 experiments (lexical decision and concrete-abstract classification). The results were most consistent with dual-coding theory. In particular, different scalp distributions of an N400-like negativity were elicited by concrete and abstract words.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reading
  • Semantics*
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*