Lingering expectations: A pseudo-repetition effect for words previously expected but not presented

Joost Rommers* (Corresponding Author), Kara D. Federmeier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Prediction can help support rapid language processing. However, it is unclear whether prediction has downstream consequences, beyond processing in the moment. In particular, when a prediction is disconfirmed, does it linger, or is it suppressed? This study manipulated whether words were actually seen or were only expected, and probed their fate in memory by presenting the words (again) a few sentences later. If disconfirmed predictions linger, subsequent processing of the previously expected (but never presented) word should be similar to actual word repetition. At initial presentation, electrophysiological signatures of prediction disconfirmation demonstrated that participants had formed expectations. Further downstream, relative to unseen words, repeated words elicited a strong N400 decrease, an enhanced late positive complex (LPC), and late alpha band power decreases. Critically, like repeated words, words previously expected but not presented also attenuated the N400. This “pseudo-repetition effect” suggests that disconfirmed predictions can linger at some stages of processing, and demonstrates that prediction has downstream consequences beyond rapid on-line processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-272
Number of pages10
Early online date11 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by a James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award and NIH grant AG026308 to KDF, and NWO grant 275-89-032 to JR. We thank Vivek Dave for assistance during data collection.


  • prediction
  • language comprehension
  • word repetition
  • event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • N400
  • Alpha


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