Event-related brain potentials as a tool in experimental pragmatics
Lecturer: Maria Spychalska, University of Cologne
Electroencephalography (EEG) — a method to record electrical activity of the brain along the scalp – has become a very popular tool used to investigate various aspects of language processing. Its main advantage is high temporal resolution, i.e. EEG allows to record the electrical activity with a milisecond precision. In the research on language, EEG has mainly been used to measure event-related brain potentials (ERPs), i.e. direct brain responses time-locked to triggering events such as, for instance, linguistic stimuli. Some ERP components, i.e. scalp-recorded voltage changes characterized by their amplitude polarity and topography, have been considered particularly relevant for language and regarded to reflect specific neural processes underlying linguistic comprehension. Still, the precise functional role of these components remains debated, as well as their relevance for the theoretical debates in semantics or pragmatics. In this course, I provide a thorough introduction to EEG, including methodological aspects of experimental design, data pre-processing and statistical analysis. I also discuss more broadly the application of the ERP research in experimental pragmatics.