We present an approach to characterizing the differences among event-related hemodynamic responses in functional magnetic resonance imaging that are evoked by different sorts of stimuli. This approach is predicated on a linear convolution model and standard inferential statistics as employed by statistical parametric mapping. In particular we model evoked responses, and their differences, in terms of basis functions of the peri-stimulus time. This facilitates a characterization of the temporal response profiles that has a high effective temporal resolution relative to the repetition time. To demonstrate the technique we examined differential responses to visually presented words that had been seen prior to scanning or that were novel. The form of these differences involved both the magnitude and the latency of the response components. In this paper we focus on bilateral ventrolateral prefrontal responses that show deactivations for previously seen words and activations for novel words.