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Linguistics Seminar Series: Kara Federmeier (UIUC)

Event Type
Department of Linguistics
LCLB Lucy Ellis Lounge
Jan 29, 2024   4:00 pm  
Originating Calendar
Linguistics Event Calendar

Talk Title: Connecting and considering: How the brain finds meaning in time

Abstract: Humans have the remarkable ability to link perceptual stimuli with long-term memory – i.e., to glean the meaning of those stimuli – in a manner that is persistent and rapid but also flexible and goal-oriented. Work in my laboratory has revealed that in a relatively invariant time window, uncovered through studies using the N400 component of the event-related potential, incoming sensory information naturally induces a graded landscape of activation across semantic memory, creating what might be called "proto-concepts". This process of "connecting" affords the continuous infusion of meaning into human perception. Connecting can be -- but is not always -- followed by a process of further "considering" those activations through a set of more attentionally-demanding comprehension mechanisms. This kind of active comprehension entails selection, augmentation, and transformation of the initial semantic representations. The result is a limited set of more stable bindings that can be arranged in time or space, revised as needed, and brought to awareness. Collectively, these findings reveal the complex relations among sensory processing, attention, memory, and control systems that allow people to both rapidly and flexibly understand one another across the lifespan.

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