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Francesca PESCIARELLI

Professore Associato
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Metaboliche e Neuroscienze sede ex-Sc. Biomediche


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Pubblicazioni

2022 - Neural timing of the other-race effect across the lifespan: A review [Articolo su rivista]
Serafini, Luana; Pesciarelli, Francesca
abstract

Face race influences the way we process faces, so that faces of a different ethnic group are processed for identity less efficiently than faces of one's ethnic group - a phenomenon known as the Other-Race Effect (ORE). Although widely repli- cated, the ORE is still poorly characterized in terms of its development and the underlying mechanisms. In the last two decades, the Event-Related Potential (ERP) technique has brought insight into the mechanisms underlying the ORE and has demonstrated potential to clarify its development. Here, we review the ERP evidence for a differential neural processing of own-race and other-race faces throughout the lifespan. In infants, race-related processing differences emerged at the N290 and P400 (structural encoding) stages. In children, race affected the P100 (early processing, attention) perceptual stage and was implicitly encoded at the N400 (semantic processing) stage. In adults, processing difficulties for other- race faces emerged at the N170 (structural encoding), P200 (configuration pro- cessing) and N250 (accessing individual representations) perceptual stages. Early in processing, race was implicitly encoded from other-race faces (N100, P200 attentional biases) and in-depth processing preferentially applied to own-race faces (N200 attentional bias). Encoding appeared less efficient (Dm effects) and retrieval less recollection-based (old/new effects) for other-race faces. Evidence admits the contribution of perceptual, attentional, and motivational processes to the development and functioning of the ORE, offering no conclusive support for perceptual or socio-cognitive accounts. Cross-racial and non-cross-racial studies provided convergent evidence. Future research would need to include less repre- sented ethnic populations and the developmental population.


2021 - Electrophysiological correlates of unconscious processes of race [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, F.; Leo, I.; Serafini, L.
abstract

The study aimed to examine the neural mechanisms underlying implicit other-race face processing by the use of the masked and unmasked priming manipulation. Two types of prime-target pairs were presented while recording Event-related potentials (ERPs): Same face pairs (prime-target were identical faces), and Different face pairs (prime-target were different faces). Prime-target pairs were half Asian (other-race) and half Caucasian (own-race) faces. The face stimuli on each pair were of the same gender and race. Participants (all Caucasians) had to decide whether the target was a male or a female face (gender task). The prime face could be unmasked or masked. On the behavioral side, our findings showed a race effect, that is slower reaction times (RTs) for other-race than own-race face stimuli, regardless of masking. On the ERPs side, our data showed a race effect across all components analyzed (P100, N100, N200, P300), under both the unmasked and masked manipulations. Besides, we found, in the unmasked condition, a priming effect as a function of race on the N100, N200, and P300 components; but, interestingly, in the masked condition, only on the P300. Overall, our findings provide evidence that race information is available very early in the brain and can strongly activate and influence people’s behaviors even without conscious awareness.


2020 - How Individuals With Down Syndrome Process Faces and Words Conveying Emotions? Evidence From a Priming Paradigm [Articolo su rivista]
Roch, Maja; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Leo, Irene
abstract


2019 - Neural correlates of the implicit processing of grammatical and stereotypical gender violations: A masked and unmasked priming study. [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, F.; Scorolli, C.; Cacciari, C.
abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the neural correlates of the automatic activation of gender stereotypes by using the masked and unmasked priming technique. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants were presented with an Italian third-person singular pronoun (lui or lei) that were preceded by either a grammatically-marked (passeggeraFEM, pensionatoMASC) or stereotypically-associated (e.g. insegnanteFEM, conducenteMASC) role noun. Participants were required to judge the grammatical gender of the personal pronoun ignoring the preceding word. This word was presented in a masked or unmasked way. The results revealed slower reaction times and larger N400, in both the masked and unmasked conditions, when the pronouns were preceded by gender-incongruent than gender-congruent grammatical and stereotypical primes. A P300 effect also emerged in both masked and unmasked conditions for the grammatical gender mismatch between the antecedent and the pronoun. These results provide evidence that gender stereotypes can strongly influence our behavior even under unconscious conditions.


2018 - L’elaborazione implicita del volto e dell’effetto razza studiati attraverso i Potenziali Evento Relati. [Articolo su rivista]
Leo, I.; Pesciarelli, F.
abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the neural correlates and the time course of implicit processing of ‘other race’ faces effect (ORE). To this end, we utilized a masked priming paradigm. The behavioral results showed an ORE effect, with slower reaction times (RTs) for Asian than Caucasian faces. The ERP results indicated an implicit other race effect across all ERP components analyzed (P1, N170, N250, P3) and a priming effect on late components (N250, P3). These results suggest that race identity can be processed early and unconsciously in the brain to some degree of abstraction.


2017 - Basic composition and enriched integration in idiom processing: An EEG study. [Articolo su rivista]
Canal, Paolo; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Vespignani, Francesco; Molinaro, Nicola; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

We investigated the extent to which the literal meanings of the words forming literally-plausible idioms (e.g., break the ice) are semantically composed, and how the idiomatic meaning is integrated in the unfolding sentence representation. Participants read ambiguous idiom strings embedded in highly predictable, literal and idiomatic contexts, while their EEG was recorded. Control sentences only contained the idiom-final word whose cloze values were as high as in literal and idiomatic contexts. Event Related Potentials data showed that differences in the amplitude of a Frontal positivity (PNP) emerged at the beginning and at the end of the idiom strings, with the Idiomatic context condition associated with more positive voltages. The Time-Frequency analysis of the EEG showed an increase in power of the middle gamma frequency band only in the Literal context condition. These findings suggest that sentence revision mechanisms, associated with the frontal PNP, are involved in idiom meaning integration, and that the literal semantic composition of the idiomatic constituents, associated with changes in gamma frequency, is not carried out after idiom recognition.


2016 - Implicit Processing of Other-Race Faces: An Event-Related Potential Study. [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Pesciarelli, F.; &, Leo
abstract

The aim of the present study was to investigate the neural correlates and the time course of implicit processing of "other race" faces. To this end, we utilized a masked priming paradigm, using a prime duration of 33 ms. Two types of prime-target pairs were used: 1. Congruent (prime and target were identical faces); 2. Incongruent (prime and target were different faces). Half prime-target pairs were Asians and half Caucasians. The faces on each pair belonged to the same race and gender. The task of the participants (all Caucasians) was to indicate whether the target face was female or male. The evented-related potential (ERP) results indicated an automatic other race effect across all ERP components analyzed (P1, N170, N250, P3) and a congruency/priming effect on late components (N250, P3). The congruency/priming effect was larger for Asian faces, showing a greater difficulty to process faces belonging to another race.


2016 - Implicit processing of the eyes and mouth: Evidence from human electrophysiology [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca; Leo, Irene; Sarlo, Michela
abstract

The current study examined the time course of implicit processing of distinct facial features and the associate event-related potential (ERP) components. To this end, we used a masked priming paradigm to investigate implicit processing of the eyes and mouth in upright and inverted faces, using a prime duration of 33 ms. Two types of prime-target pairs were used: 1. congruent (e.g., open eyes only in both prime and target or open mouth only in both prime and target); 2. incongruent (e.g., open mouth only in prime and open eyes only in target or open eyes only in prime and open mouth only in target). The identity of the faces changed between prime and target. Participants pressed a button when the target face had the eyes open and another button when the target face had the mouth open. The behavioral results showed faster RTs for the eyes in upright faces than the eyes in inverted faces, the mouth in upright and inverted faces. Moreover they also revealed a congruent priming effect for the mouth in upright faces. The ERP findings showed a face orientation effect across all ERP components studied (P1, N1, N170, P2, N2, P3) starting at about 80 ms, and a congru- ency/priming effect on late components (P2, N2, P3), starting at about 150 ms. Crucially, the results showed that the orientation effect was driven by the eye region (N170, P2) and that the congruency effect started earlier (P2) for the eyes than for the mouth (N2). These findings mark the time course of the processing of internal facial features and provide further evidence that the eyes are automatically processed and that they are very salient facial features that strongly affect the amplitude, latency, and distribution of neural responses to faces.


2016 - Neural Correlates of Implicit Processing of Other-Race Faces. [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Pesciarelli, F.; &, Leo
abstract

Abstract describing the poster (50 words): The aim of this study was to investigate the neural correlates and the time course of implicit processing of 'other race' faces. We utilized a masked priming paradigm. Half prime-target pairs were Asians and half Caucasians. The evented-related potential results indicated an early and automatic other race effect. Supporting summary (500 words): Although it is well established that people are better at recognizing faces from their own-race than at recognizing faces from other races, an effect known as the Other-Race Effect (ORE), relatively little is known about the neural correlates underlying their on-line processing. The aim of the present study was to investigate the neural correlates and the time course of implicit processing of "other race" faces. To this end, we utilized a masked priming paradigm, using a prime duration of 33 ms, while recording the event-related potentials (ERPs). Two types of prime-target pairs were used: 1. Congruent (prime and target were identical faces); 2. Incongruent (prime and target were different faces). Half prime-target pairs were Asian faces and half Caucasian faces. The faces on each prime-target pair belonged to the same race and gender. The prime was 25% smaller than the target to avoid any perceptual overlapping. Each trial began with a fixation cross (+) in the middle of the screen. Five hundred milliseconds later, a 500 ms black screen that was replaced by a 500 ms forward mask, was presented. The forward mask was replaced at the same location on the screen by the prime stimulus for 33 ms. The prime was then immediately replaced by a 500 ms backward mask. Then appeared the target stimulus, which remained onscreen until a response was made. Each response was followed by a 1000 ms blank screen. The forward and background mask stimuli were scrambled faces with the same luminance and contrast of the prime and target. The task of the participants (all Caucasians) was to indicate, as quickly and accurately as possible, whether the target face was female or male. The behavioral results showed an ORE effect, with slower reaction times (RTs) for Asian than Caucasian faces, and a congruency/priming effect, with faster RTs for the congruent than congruent condition. There was no interaction between race and congruency. The ERP results indicated an automatic/implicit other race effect across all ERP components analyzed (P1, N170, N250, P3) and a congruency/priming effect on late components (N250, P3). The congruency/priming effect was larger for Asian than Caucasian faces, showing a greater difficulty to process faces belonging to another race. These results suggest that race identity can be processed early and unconsciously in the brain to some degree of abstraction.


2016 - The Responders’ Gender Stereotypes Modulate the Strategic Decision-Making of Proposers playing the Ultimatum Game [Articolo su rivista]
Fabre, Eve Floriane; Causse, Mickael; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Despite the wealth of studies testing the factors affecting decisions, not much is known about the impact of stereotypical beliefs on strategic economic decision-making. In the present study, we used the ultimatum game paradigm to investigate how participants playing as proposers modulate their strategic economic behavior, according to their game counterparts’ stereotypical identity (i.e., responders). The latter were introduced to the participants using occupational role nouns stereotypically marked with gender paired with feminine or masculine proper names (e.g., linguist-Anna; economist-David; economist-Cristina; linguist-Leonardo). When playing with male-stereotyped responders, proposers quickly applied the equity rule, behaving fairly, while they adopted a strategic behavior with responders characterized by female stereotypes. They were also longer to make their offers to female than to male responders but both kinds of responders received comparable offers, suggesting a greater cognitive effort to treat females as equally as males. The present study explicitly demonstrates that gender stereotypical information affect strategic economic decision-making and highlights a possible evolution of that gender discrimination into a more insidious discrimination toward individuals with female characteristics.


2015 - Electrophysiological correlates of idiom comprehension: semantic composition does not follow lexical retrieval [Relazione in Atti di Convegno]
Canal, Paolo; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Molinaro, Nicola; Vespignani, Francesco; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

We investigated the extent to which the literal meanings of the words forming literally-plausible idioms (e.g., break the ice) are retrieved from memory and semantically composed during sentence comprehension. Idiom strings were embedded in highly predictable, literal and idiomatic contexts. EEG data showed that the integration of the idiom’s conventional meaning occurred at the end of the expression and affected the Post-N400 Positivity. Time-Frequency Representation of the EEG clarified that prior to integrating the idiom’s meaning, an increase in power of higher gamma frequency band was associated only with literal processing. We argue that idioms comprehension proceeds in discrete steps: idiom recognition hampers semantic composition processes so that readers wait until the end of the expression to integrate the idiom meaning with the representation of the sentence.


2015 - Gender stereotypes across the ages: On-line processing in school-age children, young and older adults [Articolo su rivista]
Siyanova Chanturia, Anna; Warren, Paul; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Most of the research on implicit gender stereotyping to date has been conducted with one age group – young adults. The mechanisms that underlie on-line processing of stereotypical information in other age groups have received much less attention. This is the first study to simultaneously investigate real time processing of gender stereotypes at different age levels. We investigated the activation of gender stereotypes in Italian in four groups of participants: third- and fifth- graders, young and older adults. Participants heard a role noun associated with masculine stereotypical (preside “headmaster”) or feminine stereotypical (badante “social care worker”) gender followed by a male (padre “father”) or female kinship term (madre “mother”). The task was to decide if the two words – the role noun and kinship term – could describe the same person. Across all age groups, participants were significantly faster to respond, and were more likely to press ‘yes’, when the target was preceded by a stereotypically congruent than incongruent prime. These findings suggest that information about the stereotypical gender associated with a role noun is incorporated into the mental representation of this word and is activated as soon as the word is heard.


2015 - Is Black Always the Opposite of White? An Investigation on the Comprehension of Antonyms in People with Schizophrenia and in Healthy Participants [Articolo su rivista]
Cacciari, Cristina; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Gamberoni, Tania; Ferlazzo, Fabio; Lo Russo, Leo; Pedrazzi, Francesca; Melati, Ermanno
abstract

The present investigation sought to expand our understanding of the cognitive processes underlying the recognition of antonyms and to evaluate whether these processes differed in patients with schizophrenia and in healthy controls. Antonymy is the most robust of the lexico-semantic relations and is relevant to both the mental organization of the lexicon and the organization of coherent discourse, as attested by the resurgence of interest in antonymy in the linguistic and psychological domains. In contrast, the vast literature on semantic processing in schizophrenia almost ignored antonymy. In this study, we tested the online comprehension of antonyms in 39 Italian patients with paranoid schizophrenia and in an equal number of pairwise-matched healthy controls. Participants read a definitional sentence fragment (e.g., the opposite of black is), followed by the correct antonym (white) or by a semantically unrelated word (nice), and judged whether or not the target word was correct. Patients were rather accurate in identifying antonyms, but compared to controls, they showed longer response times and higher priming scores, suggesting an exaggerated contextual facilitation. Presumably, this reflects a deficient controlled semantic processing and an overreliance on stored semantic representations


2015 - Is black always the opposite of white? The comprehension of antonyms in schizophrenia and in healthy participants [Relazione in Atti di Convegno]
Cacciari, Cristina; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Gamberoni, Tania; Ferlazzo, Fabio
abstract

In this study, we tested the online comprehension of antonyms in 39 Italian patients with paranoid schizophrenia and in an equal number of pairwise-matched healthy controls. Patients were rather accurate in identifying antonyms, but compared to controls, they showed longer response times and higher priming scores, suggesting an exaggerated contextual facilitation. Presumably, this reflects a deficient controlled semantic processing and an overreliance on stored semantic representations.


2015 - Is the noun ending a cue to grammatical gender processing? An ERP study on sentences in Italian [Articolo su rivista]
Caffarra, S.; Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Vespignani, F.; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Gender-to-ending consistency has been shown to influence grammatical gender retrieval in isolated word presentation. Notwithstanding this wealth of evidence, the exact role and the time course of the processing of this distributional information remain unclear. This ERP study investigated if and when the brain detects gender-to-ending consistency in sentences containing Italian determiner-noun pairs. Determiners either agreed or disagreed in gender with nouns whose endings were reliable or misleading cues to gender (Transparent and Irregular nouns, respectively). Transparent nouns elicited an increased frontal negativity and a late posterior positivity compared to Irregular nouns (350-950ms), suggesting that the system is sensitive to gender-to-ending consistency from relatively early stages of processing. But gender agreement violations evoked a similar LAN-P600 pattern for both types of nouns. These findings provide evidence for an early detection of reliable gender-related endings during sentence reading.


2015 - Sex and the money: How gender stereotypes modulate economic decision-making. An ERP study [Articolo su rivista]
Fabre, Eve Floriane; Causse, Mickael; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

In the present event related potential study, we investigated whether and how participants playing the ultimatum game as responders modulate their decisions according to the proposers’ stereotypical identity. The proposers’ identity was manipulated using occupational role nouns stereotypically marked with gender(e.g., Teacher; Engineer),paired with either feminine or masculine proper names(e.g., Anna; David). Greater FRN amplitudes reflected the early processing of the conflict between the strategic rule (i.e., earning as much money as possible) and ready-to-go responses (i.e., refusing unequal offers and discriminating proposers according to their stereotype) .Responders were found to rely on a dual-process system(i.e., automatic and heuristic-based system1 vs. cognitively costly and deliberative system2), the P300 amplitude reflecting the switch from a decision-making system to another .Greater P300 amplitudes were found in response to both fair and unfair offers and male-stereotyped proposers’ offers reflecting an automatic decision-making based on heuristics, while lower P300 amplitudes were found in response to3€ offers and the female-stereotyped proposers’ offers reflecting a more deliberative reasoning. Overall, the results indicate that participants were more motivated to engage in a costly deliberative reasoning associated with an increase in acceptation rate when playing with female-stereotyped proposers who may have induced more positive and emphatic feelings in the participants than did male stereotyped proposers. Then, we assume that people with an occupation stereotypically marked with female gender and engaged in an economic negotiation may benefit from their occupation at least in the case their counterparts lose their money if the negotiation fails.


2014 - Effetti della religione sulla risposta neurofisiologica all’errore [Poster]
Scorolli, C.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Borghi, A.; Colzato, L.; Hommel, B.; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Introduzione Negli ultimi anni vari studi cross-culturali si sono focalizzati sulla religione. La religione si presta infatti ad essere definita in modo più preciso ed esplicito rispetto al più generico concetto di cultura. Mentre alcuni lavori hanno indagato la contrapposizione generica tra credenti e non-credenti, altri hanno evidenziato che le differenze fra credi religiosi hanno effetti significativi sul comportamento. L’obiettivo del lavoro è testare se la pratica religiosa, caratterizzata dal vantaggio adattivo di limitare l'incertezza del futuro, e in particolare quella cattolica, associata alla possibilità di rimediare all’errore con il pentimento, riduca la risposta elettrofisiologica all’errore. Metodo Si sono testati 22 partecipanti, 11 laici(L) e 11 cattolici praticanti(C), utilizzando un classico compito Stroop. L’esperimenti si componeva di 10 blocchi: gli ultimi 5 erano preceduti da una frase-Prime, relata all’atteggiamento laico(L) o al credo religioso, evocando la colpa(C). Sono stati registrati gli Errori(E), i Tempi di Risposta(TR) e i Potenziali evento-correlati(ERP), nello specifico la componente ERN(negatività correlata all'errore). Un'ERN più ampia sembra indicare una reazione più ansiosa all’errore. Risultati Dall’analisi degli E e dei TR non emergono differenze tra i due gruppi. Dall’analisi dei TR emerge un vantaggio degli stimoli congruenti su quelli incongruenti. L’analisi degli ERP, per le risposte sbagliate, evidenzia che l’ERN è maggiore per i laici che per i cattolici. Introducendo il Prime, le differenze tra i due gruppi si annullano. Conclusioni I dati suggeriscono che la pratica della religione cattolica, benché non moduli i tempi di reazione, ha un effetto significativo rilevabile dall’analisi dell’attività neuronale: la componente ERN, tipicamente associata ad una risposta difensiva all’errore, è più ampia per i laici che per i cattolici. Gli sviluppi del progetto prevedono studi interreligiosi che tengano conto dei diversi gradi di tolleranza alla violazione delle norme.


2014 - Is the comprehension of idiomatic sentences indeed impaired in paranoid Schizophrenia? A window into semantic processing deficits [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca; Tania, Gamberoni; Fabio, Ferlazzo; Leo Lo, Russo; Francesca, Pedrazzi; Ermanno, Melati; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Schizophrenia patients have been reported to be more impaired in comprehending non-literal than literal language since early studies on proverbs. Preference for literal rather than figurative interpretations continues to be documented. The main aim of this study was to establish whether patients are indeed able to use combinatorial semantic processing to comprehend literal sentences and both combinatorial analysis, and retrieval of pre-stored meanings to comprehend idiomatic sentences. The study employed a sentence continuation task in which subjects were asked to decide whether a target word was a sensible continuation of a previous sentence fragment to investigate idiomatic and literal sentence comprehension in patients with paranoid schizophrenia. Patients and healthy controls were faster in accepting sensible continuations than in rejecting non-sensible ones in both literal and idiomatic sentences. Patients were as accurate as controls in comprehending literal and idiomatic sentences, but they were overall slower than controls in all conditions. Once the contribution of cognitive covariates was partialled out, the response times (RTs) to sensible idiomatic continuations of patients did not significantly differ from those of controls. This suggests that the state of residual schizophrenia did not contribute to slower processing of sensible idioms above and beyond the cognitive deficits that are typically associated with schizophrenia.


2013 - Are complex function words processed as semantically empty strings? A reading time and ERP study of collocational complex prepositions [Articolo su rivista]
N., Molinaro; P., Canal; F., Vespignani; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Collocational complex prepositions (CCPs, e.g., in the hands of) are prefabricated strings of words that play a prepositional role in natural language. Typically, CCPs are formed by a first preposition (P1) followed by a content word (N1) and a second, final preposition (P2) (in the - P1 - hands - N1 - of - P2). Despite their default structure stored in semantic memory, some CCPs allow internal modification (e.g., adjective insertion). In this study, two experiments tested the comprehension of CCPs in which we modified their default structure inserting an adjective before the noun. This modification preserved the semantic well-formedness of the string. The self-paced reading time study (Experiment 1) showed that readers took significantly longer to read the CCP constituents after the inserted adjective (N1 and P2). The ERP (Experiment 2) showed a smaller N400 response to the noun when preceded by the adjective, suggesting that the insertion did not disrupt the online processing of the CCP. Critically, the adjective insertion increased the processing load of the prepositional phrase introduced by the CCP, as evidenced by a LAN in response to the complement noun (N2). Overall, these findings showed that processing CCPs was not disrupted by insertions despite their predefined default word order. Rather, their interpretation was semantically enriched, correlating with an increase in the processing load when the CCP was integrated with the complement noun.


2013 - Electrophysiological evidence for the activation of gender stereotypes during language processing [Poster]
Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Electrophysiological evidence for the activation of gender stereotypes during language processing


2013 - Gender stereotypes modulate economic decision making and its neural correlates [Poster]
Fabre, E.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Gender stereotypes modulate economic decision making and its neural correlates


2013 - Gender-to-ending consistency and agreement processing in Italian: two independent effects? [Poster]
Caffarra, S.; Siyanova Chanturia, S.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Vespignani, F.; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Behavioral studies on gender-to-ending consistency in Romance language showed that people take advantage of these word-form cues when judging gender identity or agreement. However, it is still unclear when the linguistic processor identifies word-ending cues to gender, and whether this information affects syntactic agreement processing. This ERP study investigated the time course of gender agreement processing with Italian nouns whose word ending was a reliable or a misleading cue to gender (transparent, irregular nouns). The nouns were preceded by gender agreeing or disagreeing determiners and were embedded in sentences. The ERPs on target nouns showed main effects of Transparency and Gender Agreement. Specifically, transparent nouns elicited an increased frontal negativity (350-750 ms) and a posterior positivity (750-950 ms) compared to irregular nouns. This suggests that the system is sensitive to gender-to-ending consistency from early stages of processing and that this information remains available until later processing stages. In addition, gender agreement violations evoked a LAN (350-500 ms) followed by a P600 (550-950 ms). The lack of interaction between Agreement and Transparency suggests that agreement processing is relatively unaffected by gender-to-ending consistency.


2013 - HOW EARLY IS GRAMMATICAL GENDER INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO ITALIAN READERS? [Abstract in Rivista]
Caffarra, Sendy; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

APR 13-16, 2013


2013 - How early is grammatical gender information available to the reader? [Poster]
Caffarra, Sendy; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Syntax-first models (Friederici, 2002) posit that syntactic analysis starts at a very early stage (100-300 ms). Consistently, a number of MEG and ERP studies have shown syntactic effects as early as 150 ms after stimulus onset (Dykker et al., 2009; Pulvermuller et al., 2007). The aim of the present study was to establish how early grammatical gender became available to the reader. Given its important role in syntactic structure building (especially in Romance languages), we hypothesized that grammatical gender information should become available between 100 and 300 ms, as predicted by syntax-first models. To this aim, we conducted an ERP study adopting a paradigm designed to monitor an early ERP component, the N2pc. This attentional component was chosen because of its early sensitivity to linguistic variables (Dell’Acqua et al., 2007). 600 Italian noun-adjective pairs whose gender agreed or disagreed were selected. The noun was presented centrally and was followed by two lateralized stimuli (the adjective and a distractor) presented for 200 ms. Participants judged noun-adjective gender agreement. ERP results showed that agreement violations influenced the amplitude of the N2pc between 170 and 310 ms. Specifically, a greater negativity was observed at P7 for the agreement condition relative to the disagreement condition. These results suggest that grammatical gender information is available at an early stage of language comprehension (100-300 ms).


2013 - Motor activation in literal and non-literal sentences: does time matter? [Articolo su rivista]
Cacciari, Cristina; Pesciarelli, Francesca
abstract

Despite the impressive amount of evidence showing involvement of the sensorimotor systems in language processing, important questions remain unsolved among which the relationship between non-literal uses of language and sensorimotor activation. The literature did not yet provide a univocal answer on whether the comprehension of non-literal, abstract motion sentences engages the same neural networks recruited for literal sentences. A previous TMS study using the same experimental materials of the present study showed activation for literal, fictive and metaphoric motion sentences but not for idiomatic ones. To evaluate whether this may depend on insufficient time for elaborating the idiomatic meaning, we conducted a behavioral experiment that used a sensibility judgment task performed by pressing a button either with a hand finger or with a foot. Motor activation is known to be sensitive to the action-congruency of the effector used for responding. Therefore, all other things being equal, significant differences between response emitted with an action-congruent or incongruent effector (foot vs. hand) may be attributed to motor activation. Foot-related action verbs were embedded in sentences conveying literal motion, fictive motion, metaphoric motion or idiomatic motion. Mental sentences were employed as a control condition. foot responses were significantly faster than finger responses but only in literal motion sentences. We hypothesize that motor activation may arise in early phases of comprehension processes (i.e., upon reading the verb) for then decaying as a function of the strength of the semantic motion component of the verb.


2013 - The interaction between language and visual spatial attention systems in grammatical gender processing. An N2pc study [Articolo su rivista]
Caffarra, Sendy; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

This ERP study employed an N2pc paradigm to investigate possible functional interactions between mechanisms of visual spatial attention and grammatical gender processing. Previous studies showed that the N2pc, an attention-related ERP component, can be modulated by lexical-semantic variables. However, it remains to be seen whether the N2pc can be affected by grammatical features as well. To test this, we conducted an N2pc study with Italian word pairs whose grammatical gender either agreed or disagreed. Participants read a centrally presented noun followed by an adjective in a lateralized position during a gender agreement task. Between 170 and 310ms, the N2pc was elicited contralaterally to the adjective position with a left-lateralized effect of the agreement manipulation. These results suggest that this component could be influenced by grammatical features, supporting a functional interaction between processes mediating visual spatial attention and agreement computation.


2013 - The Role of Gender-To-Ending Consistency in Italian Agreement Processing [Abstract in Rivista]
Caffarra, Sendy; Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Vespignani, F.; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

SPR 53rd annual meeting


2013 - The role of the word ending during the processing of gender agreement in Italian. [Poster]
Caffarra, S.; Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Vespignani, F.; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

The role of the word ending during the processing of gender agreement in Italian.


2012 - Activating gender stereotype: A life-span perspective [Poster]
Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Most of the research on implicit gender stereotyping to date has been conducted with one age group – young adults. The mechanisms that underlie on-line processing of stereotypical information in other age groups have received little or no attention. This is the first study to investigate on-line processing of gender stereotypes from a life-span perspective. In fact, we investigated the activation of gender stereotypes in four groups of participants, third and fifth graders, young and cognitively-preserved older adults. Participants heard a role noun associated with masculine stereotypical or feminine stereotypical gender followed by a male or female kinship term. Their task was to decide if these two words could describe the same person. Across all age groups, participants were significantly faster to respond, and were more likely to press YES, when the target was preceded by a stereotypically congruent than incongruent prime. These findings suggest that information about the stereotypical gender associated with a role noun is incorporated into the mental representation of this word and activated as soon as the word is heard.


2012 - Event-related potential evidence for two functionally dissociable sources of semantic effects in the attentional blink. [Articolo su rivista]
F., Peressotti; Pesciarelli, Francesca; C., Mulatti; R., Dell'Acqua
abstract

Three target words (T1, T2, and T3) were embedded in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream of non-word distractors, and participants were required to report the targets at the end of each RSVP stream. T2 and T3 were semantically related words in half of the RSVP streams, and semantically unrelated words in the other half of the RSVP streams. Using an identical design, Pesciarelli et al. (2007; Biological Psychology) observed distinct reflections of the T2-T3 semantic relationship on the P2 and N400 components of event-related potentials (ERPs) time-locked to T3, suggesting an early, automatic, source of P2 semantic effects and a late, controlled, source of N400 semantic effects. Here, P2 and N400 semantic effects were examined by manipulating list-wide context. Relative to participants performing in a semantically unbiased context, participants over-exposed to filler RSVP streams always including semantically related T2/T3 words reported a dilution of T3-locked P2 semantic effects and a magnification of T3-locked N400 semantic effects. Opposite effects on P2 and N400 ERP components of list-wide semantic context are discussed in relation to recent proposals on the representational status of RSVP targets at processing stages prior to consolidation in visual short-term memory.


2012 - Event-related potentials distinguish between distinct sources of semantic activation in the attentional blink [Abstract in Rivista]
R., Dell'Acqua; F., Peressotti; Pesciarelli, Francesca
abstract

Three target words (T1, T2, and T3) were embedded in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream of non-word distractors, and participants were required to report the targets at the end of each RSVP stream. T2 and T3 were semantically related words in half of the RSVP streams, and semantically unrelated words in the other half of the RSVP streams. Using an identical design, Pesciarelli et al. [1] observed distinct reflections of the T2-T3 semantic relationship on the P2 and N400 components of event-related potentials (ERPs) time-locked to T3, suggesting an early, automatic, source of P2 semantic effects and a late, controlled, source of N400 semantic effects. Here, P2 and N400 semantic effects were examined by manipulating list-wide context. Relative to participants performing in a semantically unbiased context, participants over-exposed to filler RSVP streams always including semantically related T2/T3 words reported a dilution of T3-locked P2 semantic effects and a magnification of T3-locked N400 semantic effects. Opposite effects on P2 and N400 ERP components of list-wide semantic context are discussed in relation to recent proposals on the representational status of RSVP targets at processing stages prior to consolidation in visual short-term memory.


2012 - GENDER STEREOTYPES MODULATE ECONOMIC DECISION MAKING & THE FEEDBACK RELATED NEGATIVITY [Abstract in Rivista]
E., Fabre; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

The main purpose of the study was to determine if gender-marked stereotypes modulate economic decision making using the one shot Ultimatum Game (UG) paradigm. The participants played as responders against 360 different proposers. Their identity was manipulated. Behavioral and electrophysiological data were registered. The results showed that gender marked stereotypes lead to a modulation of the acceptation rate and the amplitude of the FRN. We propose that the modulation of the FRN reflects the conflict detection/monitoring and not only the perceived fairness of the offer.


2012 - IMPLICIT PROCESSING OF THE EYES AND MOUTH:EVIDENCE FROM HUMAN ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY [Abstract in Rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca; I., Leo; M., Sarlo
abstract

The aim of the present study was to investigate the time course of implicit processing of facial features and the associate ERP components. To this end, we used a masked priming paradigm to investigate implicit processing of the eyes and mouth in upright and inverted faces, using a prime duration of 33 ms. Two types of prime-target pairs were used: 1. congruent (e.g., open eyes only in both prime and target); 2. incongruent (e.g., open mouth only in prime and open eyes only in target). The identity of the faces changed between prime and target. Participants pressed a button when the target face had the eyes open and another button when the target face had the mouth open. The behavioral results indicated a congruent priming effect for the mouth in upright faces and for the eyes in inverted faces. In addition, the ERP results indicated a face orientation effect across all ERP components studied (P1, N1, N170, P2, N2, P3) starting at about 80 ms, and a congruency/priming effect on late components (P2, N2, P3), starting at about 150 ms. Interestingly, the results showed that the orientation effect was driven by the eye region and that the congruency effect started earlier (P2) for the eyes than for the mouth (N2). These congruency effects were followed by a P3 component, which peaked later for the incongruent than congruent conditions. These findings provide further evidence that the eyes are automatically processed and that are very salient facial features that strongly affect the amplitude, latency, and distribution of neural responses to faces.


2012 - La comprensione di espressioni idiomatiche nei pazienti schizofrenici: un nuovo test per l’Ipotesi della Configurazione [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Cacciari, Cristina; Pesciarelli, Francesca; G. a. m. b. e. r. o. n. i., T.; Ferlazzo, F.; Lo Russo, L.; Pedrazzi, F.; Melati, E.
abstract

Schizophrenia patients have been reported to be more impaired in comprehending non-literal than literal language since early studies on proverbs. Preference for literal rather than figurative interpretations continues to be documented. The main aim of this study was to establish whether patients are indeed able to use combinatorial semantic processing to comprehend literal sentences and both combinatorial analysis and retrieval of pre-stored meanings to comprehend idiomatic sentences. The study employed a sentence continuation task in which subjects were asked to decide whether a target word was a sensible continuation of a previous sentence fragment to investigate idiomatic and literal sentence comprehension in patients with paranoid schizophrenia. Patients and healthy controls were faster in accepting sensible continuations than in rejecting non-sensible ones in both literal and idiomatic sentences. Patients were as accurate as controls in comprehending literal and idiomatic sentences, but they were overall slower than controls in all conditions. Once the contribution of cognitive covariates was partialled out, the response times to sensible idiomatic continuations of patients did not significantly differ from those of controls. This suggests that the state of residual schizophrenia did not contribute to slower processing of sensible idioms above and beyond the cognitive deficits that are typically associated with schizophrenia.


2012 - L’attivazione del genere stereotipico delle parole: una prospettiva life-span [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Introduzione. Ricerche comportamentali e ERP su giovani adulti hanno mostrato che il genere stereotipico delle parole è incorporato nella loro rappresentazione semantica (Banaij & Hardin, 1996; Cacciari & Padovani, 2007). Tuttavia, i meccanismi coinvolti nell’elaborazione del genere stereotipico in bambini o anziani sono ancora poco conosciuti. Per contribuire a colmare la lacuna di ricerche life-span, abbiamo indagato l’attivazione del genere stereotipico in 32 bambini di 3a e 34 di 5a elementare, 26 giovani adulti, e 28 anziani cognitivamente preservati col paradigma di Oakhill et al. (2005). Metodo. Sulla base del norming effettuato su 133 diversi bambini di 3a e 5a, sono stati scelti 9 nomi di ruolo associati a maschi e 9 a femmine. I 18 nomi di ruolo (e 24 filler con genere semantico) sono stati usati per tutti i soggetti. Nei 4 esperimenti i partecipanti sentono in cuffia una parola che denota un ruolo occupazionale (prime) a cui è associato un genere stereotipico maschile (camionista) o femminile (insegnante). 200 ms dopo, i soggetti sentono uno fra 6 termini di parentela (target: sorella, fratello, madre, padre, moglie, marito; 180 stimoli, in blocchi) e debbono decidere se le due parole (prime-target) descrivono la stessa persona. Le coppie prime-target sono congruenti o incongruenti con lo stereotipo di genere (o col genere semantico per i filler). Risultati. Le ANOVE sui tempi di decisione di ciascun gruppo mostrano che in tutte le classi di età la risposta è più veloce quando il target è preceduto da un prime stereotipicamente congruente sia per gli stereotipi maschili che femminili (ps < .01). Conclusioni. Questo è il primo studio che indaga in un’ottica life-span l’elaborazione di stereotipi di genere. I risultati mostrano che questi sono già presenti a 7 anni e mantengono una notevole stabilità essendo in ugual misura attivati (al di là della diversa velocità di elaborazione) in bambini di 3a elementare e persone anziane.


2012 - The electrophysiological underpinnings of processing gender stereotypes in language [Articolo su rivista]
Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Despite the widely documented influence of gender stereotypes on social behaviour, little is known about the electrophysiological substrates engaged in the processing of such information when conveyed by language. Using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), we examined the brain response to third-person pronouns (lei “she” and lui “he”) that were implicitly primed by definitional (passeggeraFEM “passenger”, pensionatoMASC “pensioner”) or stereotypical antecedents (insegnante “teacher”, conducente “driver”). An N400-like effect on the pronoun emerged when it was preceded by a definitionally incongruent prime (passeggeraFEM – lui; pensionatoMASC – lei), and a stereotypically incongruent prime for masculine pronouns only (insegnante – lui). In addition, a P300-like effect was found when the pronoun was preceded by definitionally incongruent primes. However, this effect was observed for female, but not male participants. Overall, these results provide further evidence for online effects of stereotypical gender in language comprehension. Importantly, our results also suggest a gender stereotype asymmetry in that male and female stereotypes affected the processing of pronouns differently.


2012 - “To accept or to reject? It depends on who proposes it”. An fMRI study on the Ultimatum Game. [Poster]
Lui, Fausta; Bauleo, Armando; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Duzzi, Davide; Lotto, L; Cacciari, Cristina; Rumiati, R; Porro, Carlo Adolfo
abstract

Introduction: In the Ultimatum Game (UG), a proposer decides in which proportion to split a fixed amount of money (e.g., 10 €) with a responder. Both get their share only if the responder accepts the offer. Despite what would be predicted by expected utility models, typically some offers (most frequently the lowest ones) are rejected, being considered unfair [3]. Brain imaging and TMS studies [2, 4-5, 7] have investigated the brain circuits involved in different aspects of the UG. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that the identity of the proposers, specifically, their economic status, i) affects acceptance rates; ii) modulates brain activity of the responders in the UG protocol. Methods: Twenty-one healthy right-handed volunteers (all females; mean age 22.8 ± 3.1) took part in this study. During the fMRI scan, each volunteer was asked to play 54 trials (split in 3 runs) of UG. All human proposers were presented as females and could be either A) old-age retirees living on a small pension, or B) well-to-do businesswomen/professionals. Their identity was introduced by a brief description including first name, age and social status (e.g., Maria, 84, with minimum pension). Offers by a computer were the control condition. The amount of money to share was € 10 in each trial, with three types of offers. that we defined as: Unfair (1 or 2 €), Fair (4 or 5 €), Mid-value (3 €). On each trial, participants saw the description of the proposer (8 s), then they were presented with an offer (8 s). Both proposer and offer type were presented in random order. Finally, participants accepted or rejected the offer by pressing a button. Functional imaging was performed on a 3T Philips Achieva scanner. Thirty axial slices were acquired (TR=2000 ms; FOV=240x240 mm; in-plane matrix=80x80; voxel size=3.0x3.0x4.0 mm). Data analysis was carried out using a General Linear Model (GLM) as implemented in SPM5; significance level was set at α < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons, as assessed by AlphaSim (http://afni.nimh.nih.gov/afni/doc/manual/AlphaSim). Results: Behavioral data: Acceptance rates were significantly higher for proposer A than for the other proposers, for both Unfair and Mid-value offers (p<0.001), but not for Fair offers. fMRI data: Unfair offers, compared to Fair offers, elicited signal increases in anterior mid-cingulate cortex (aMCC) and right prefrontal cortex (PFC); smaller (subthreshold) clusters were present also in left PFC and, bilaterally, in anterior insula (Fig.1). The contrast Fair vs. Unfair offers did not elicit suprathreshold activity. When we compared proposer B vs A in the trials in which offers were subsequently accepted, we found a significant signal increase in the right insula (Fig. 2). When offers were subsequently rejected, a comparison of proposer A vs B revealed an active cluster in precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) (Fig. 3). The opposite contrasts did not reveal any significant cluster. Conclusions: We show here that the economic status of the proposers selectively affects i) acceptance rates, and ii) brain activity; namely, in case of accepted offers, proposer B caused a selective activation in posterior insula. This area is known to have complex functions, among which a role in pain perception and modulation [6] and in attention to negative emotions [8]. This activation might suggest that accepting the offers from proposer B bears some similarity with an unpleasant experience. In case of subsequently rejected offers, proposer A caused a selective activation in precuneus/PCC. This is a very complex region, part of the so-called "default mode network", which is active during the conscious resting state, and inhibited during non-self related tasks [1]. We may hypothesize that rejecting offers from a proposer with whom people could easily empathise, implies a greater focus on first-person perspective, an


2011 - Activating gender stereotypes in Italian during online language processing. [Poster]
Anna Siyanova, Chanturia; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Research suggests that information about stereotypical gender associated with certain occupations and characteristics is incorporated into speakers’ representations, rendering such information difficult to suppress during language processing. The aim of the present study was to investigate the activation of gender stereotypes in Italian. Participants were primed with a noun or an adjective that belonged to one of the following categories: (1) masculine stereotypical gender unmarked (conducente “driver”); (2) feminine stereotypical gender unmarked (insegnante “teacher”); (3) masculine biological without stereotypical gender bias (pensionato “pensioner”); (4) feminine biological without stereotypical gender bias (passeggera “passenger”); (5) stereotypically neutral gender unmarked (conoscente “acquaintance”). The prime was immediately followed by a target, which was a personal pronoun lui (“he”) or lei (“she”). Participants were required to decide as quickly as possible whether the pronoun was masculine or feminine. The results showed faster RTs in congruent conditions, both biological (pensionato – lui, passeggera – lei) and, crucially, stereotypical (conducente – lui, insegnante – lei), compared to incongruent ones (pensionato – lei, passeggera – lui; and conducente – lei, insegnante – lui). Although the effect was stronger for biological gender manipulations than stereotypical ones, our results provide further support for a stereotypical gender priming effect in language.


2011 - Brain potentials differentiate compositional and non-compositional processing of Multi-Word Expressions: The case of idioms. [Poster]
Canal, P.; Vespignani, F.; Molinaro, N.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

It is widely accepted that the meanings and the forms of Multi Word Expressions (MWEs) are stored in the mental lexicon (e.g., [1,2]). To comprehend these over-learned expressions the combination of single words meanings might not be readers’ most effective strategy. In the present study we used ambiguous idioms (e.g., land on someone’s feet) that have both a conventional meaning and a semantically well-formed literal interpretation, to isolate and compare the cognitive operations at play during compositional and non-compositional processing of the same sequences of words. The strings were inserted in different contexts: an Idiomatic Context Condition (IC) (1); a Literal Context Condition (LC) (2); a Control Condition (CC) where the last word of the idiom string was embedded in a literal sentence (3). The predictability of the last word of the idiom strings was equally very high across conditions. In Experiment 1, we recorded Event-Related Potentials (ERPs). We assumed that processing idiomatic configurations of words [3] involves recognition [4] and whole meaning integration processes. Therefore we expected that the recognition of the idiomatic strings should be facilitated in IC compared to LC and this could be reflected in a larger P300 effect. The integration of the idiomatic meaning in the sentential context might be reflected in N400 effects, [5]) or, alternatively, in P600 effects [6] if additional inferences based on vocabulary information are needed to preserve sentence coherence. The ERP waveforms showed an early positive effect (P300-like) on the penultimate word of the expression in IC. The processing of the last constituent was also influenced by the previous context: a late positive effect was observed on the last idiomatic constituent in IC compared to CC. To test whether the literal meaning of the idioms was computed even in idiomatic contexts [3] we ran a cross-modal lexical decision times experiment (Experiment 2) in which the visual target was either related or unrelated to the literal meaning of the last constituent of the idiom string. The results showed that regardless of context the literal meaning of the last constituent of the expression was still available at the offset of the idiom string. This suggests that the meanings of the constituent words are activated even when the idiom has been recognized as a conventional expression. Overall, our results show that idiom comprehension processes differ from literal processing: idioms need to be first recognized as such and recognition is easier when idioms are inserted in idiomatic contexts. At the end of the expression the conventional meaning is integrated into the sentence and because of the local ambiguity of the string readers might need to draw additional inferences to preserve sentence coherence, retrieving and integrating the conventional meaning of the expression.


2011 - Can perceiving letters of the alphabet cause spatial shifts of attention? [Relazione in Atti di Convegno]
S., Nakhai; Pesciarelli, Francesca; D., Mapelli; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

There is an association between number or letter perception and response preference with faster left-hand responses for small numbers and faster right-hand responses for large numbers. Involuntary shifts of attention to the left or right visual field were shown to occur when stimuli with a strong meaning appear in the visual field. We investigated whether perceiving letters of the alphabet can induce such a shift of attention. The results suggest that the spatial component of letters might not be as strong as that of the numbers, and it probably takes longer for letter perception to induce shifts of attention.


2011 - Does perceiving a letter of the alphabet cause spatial shifts of attention? [Poster]
Nakhai, S.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Mapelli, D.; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

The association between numbers and space has been widely investigated and there is mounting evidence that perception of numbers involves a spatial component. It has been demonstrated that there is an association between number magnitude and response preference with faster left-hand responses for small numbers and faster right-hand responses for large numbers (SNARC effect for Spatial Numerical Association of Response Codes), suggesting the existence of a “Mental Number Line”. Involuntary shifts of attention to the left or right visual field have been shown to occur when stimuli with a strong meaning (e.g. numbers, direction arrows, etc) abruptly appear in the visual field, even when the observers know that these stimuli are irrelevant to the task and must be ignored. Since numbers convey not only magnitude but also order, the question of whether non-numerical ordinal information is also spatially coded follows. Although initially the SNARC effect was found exclusively with numbers as stimuli further studies showed that non-numerical information such as letters of the alphabet, months of the year, days of the week, etc. is also spatially coded. Based on these findings in the present study we investigated whether perceiving letters of the alphabet can induce such a shift of attention to the left or right visual field. 23 subjects did a detection task in which they had to fixate a central white cross on a black screen, followed by either one of the two letters A or Z (the first and the last letters of the Italian alphabet) or a neutral cue (a diamond) presented for one of the durations (500 ms, 800 ms or 1000 ms) randomly. After the letter disappeared, the target, a small white square, appeared on the left or the right of the fixation point. In 20% of the trials a white circle appeared instead of the square, as catch trials. Participants were to press the space bar as soon as they detected the target (a white square). The results showed that there were significant shifts of attention after perceiving Z but not A, and these shifts were generated only for the trials where the letter was presented the longest (1000ms). This suggests that the spatial component of letters might not be as strong as those of the numbers, and it probably takes longer for letter perception to induce shifts of attention.


2011 - Electrtophysiological investigation of biological and stereotypical gender violations in a gender-marked language. [Poster]
Anna Siyanova, Chanturia; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

There is evidence showing that stereotypical gender associated with certain occupations and characteristics is incorporated into speakers’ representations, and that such information is difficult to suppress during on-line language processing (Cacciari & Padovani, 2007; Oakhill, Garnham, & Reynolds, 2005). However, relatively little is known about the neural correlates involved in, and the time course of, the processing of such information. Existing studies have shown that different neural processes may engage in the processing of gender stereotypes (Irmen, Holt, & Weisbrod, 2010; Osterhout, Bersick, & McLaughlin, 1997; White, et al., 2009). The aim of the present ERP study was to investigate the activation of gender stereotypes in Italian using a paradigm adapted from Banaji and Hardin (1996). Specifically, our goal was to establish how early such information becomes available to the reader. Participants were presented with a prime, such as: (1) masculine stereotypical gender nouns (conducente “driver”); (2) feminine stereotypical gender nouns (insegnante “teacher”); (3) masculine biological gender nouns without associated stereotypes (pensionato “pensioner”); (4) feminine biological gender nouns without associated stereotypes (passeggera “passenger”); or (5) bi-genders without associated stereotypes (conoscente “acquaintance”). Each prime was followed by either a masculine or a feminine personal pronoun (Lui “he” vs. Lei “she”). Participants decided whether the pronoun was masculine or feminine, while their RTs and ERPs were recorded. Participants were faster to judge the gender of the pronoun (as masculine or feminine) when it was preceded by a gender-congruent prime, compared to a gender-incongruent one. This was found in biological and stereotypical conditions. The ERP results suggest two different effects. First, a larger negativity between 200 and 380 ms peaking around 300 ms (most prominent across frontal/central sites) was observed when masculine and feminine pronouns were preceded by biological gender-incongruent vs. biological gender-congruent primes. When primes had a stereotypical connotation, this negativity was found only for masculine pronouns preceded by stereotypical gender-incongruent primes compared to stereotypical gender-congruent ones. Second, an increased positivity between 380 and 500 ms peaking around 420 ms (most prominent across frontal/central sites) was observed when pronouns followed biological, but not stereotypical, gender-incongruent primes. Our results for biological gender violations appear to be comparable to those reported by Barber and Carreiras (2003), who observed negativity around 400 ms for gender-incongruent conditions in word pairs. Our seemingly early and more frontal effect could be due to the use of function words (pronouns) rather than content ones used by Barber and Carreiras (2003). The positivity around 420 ms for biological gender violations appears to be in line with the P300 effect, observed in Barber and Carreiras (2003) together with N400 which preceded it. Crucially, our findings provide further support for online effects of stereotypical gender in language comprehension. The presence of a large negativity for the masculine but not feminine pronoun suggests that when the gender stereotype conveyed by the prime was feminine, the brain registered a mismatch in response to a stereotype-violating pronoun (insegnante “teacher” – lui “he”). In sum, male and female gender-stereotypes affected the processing of pronouns differently.


2011 - ERP evidence for the activation of gender stereotypes: The case of Italian. [Poster]
Anna Siyanova, Chanturia; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Language users have mental representations of words (e.g., occupation nouns and personal characteristics) that include information about the word’s stereotypical gender. This information is difficult to suppress during on-line language processing (e.g., Banaji & Hardin, 1996; Cacciari & Padovani, 2007; Oakhill, Garnham, & Reynolds, 2005). The few electrophysiological studies conducted on this topic showed that different neural processes are engaged in the processing of gender-stereotype information (Irmen, Holt, & Weisbrod, 2010: N400, P600; Osterhout, Bersick, & McLaughlin, 1997: P600; White, et al., 2009: N400). In this ERP study we investigated the activation of gender stereotypes in Italian using a priming paradigm adapted from Banaji and Hardin (1996). Our aim was, first, to establish how early this information becomes available to the reader, and, second, to uncover the ERP signature of the emergence of gender stereotypes in language. Participants were presented with a prime that could be: a masculine or feminine stereotypical gender noun (conducenteMASC “driver” vs. insegnanteFEM “teacher”); a masculine or feminine grammatically marked noun (pensionatoMASC “pensioner” vs. passeggeraFEM “passenger”). Each prime was followed by either a masculine or a feminine personal pronoun (Lui “he” vs. Lei “she”). Participants decided whether the pronoun was masculine or feminine, while their RTs and ERPs were recorded. Primes and targets were controlled for psycholinguistic variables (length, frequency); in addition, masculine and feminine stereotypes were matched in stereotype strength and valence. As in previous behavioural studies, participants were faster to judge the gender of the pronoun when preceded by a gender-congruent than gender-incongruent prime in both biological and stereotypical conditions. The ERP results suggest two different effects. First, when the pronouns were preceded by biological grammatically marked incongruent nouns (e.g., pensionato-lei; passeggera-lui), a larger negativity between 200 and 380 ms peaking around 300 ms (most prominent across frontal/central sites) emerged. Interestingly, when the pronouns were preceded by stereotypical primes, a negativity with similar latency and distribution emerged in the incongruent condition only for masculine pronouns. Second, an increased positivity between 380 and 500 ms peaking around 420 ms (most prominent across frontal/central sites) was observed when pronouns followed biological, but not stereotypical, gender-incongruent primes. The waveforms we obtained for biological gender violations are comparable to the N400 reported by Barber and Carreiras (2003). Our seemingly early and more frontal effect could be due to the use of function words (pronouns) rather than content ones as in Barber and Carreiras (2003). The positivity around 420 ms for biological gender violations appears to be in line with the P300 effect observed in Barber and Carreiras (2003) together with the N400. Crucially, our ERP results provide further support for online effects of stereotypical gender in language comprehension. When a role noun is read, the stereotypical gender associated with it, if any, is activated together with other lexical-semantic information and might prime gender-congruent nodes. Remarkably, the ERP confirmed a gender stereotype asymmetry (cfr. Cacciari & Padovani, 2007), in that male and female gender stereotypes affected the processing of pronouns differently. The results imply that participants seemed more accepting of female drivers than male teachers, suggesting that gender stereotypes (conveyed by occupation nouns or personal characteristics) might be less restrictive for females than males. According to social psychologists, one social group (e.g., males) can become more normative than another (e.g., females) (Hegarty & Pratto, 2001). Indeed, attitudes and stereotypes have been found to be influenced


2011 - Il genere grammaticale in italiano: quanto è precoce la sua elaborazione? [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Caffarra, S.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Introduzione: Le lingue romanze appaiono le migliori candidate per lo studio del genere grammaticale, data l’importanza che rivestono i processi di accordo. Numerosi autori (Bates et al., 1996) hanno sottolineato come la trasparenza ortografica-fonologica del suffisso possa facilitare l’elaborazione di genere grammaticale, rendendola più rapida o più accurata rispetto a parole fonologicamente opache (dove il suffisso non è informativo) o irregolari (dove il suffisso è un cattivo predittore del genere). Un’altra variabile rivelatasi utile per i processi d’accordo è il genere biologico: nelle parole riferite ad esseri umani il sesso biologico del referente rafforza l’informazione di genere grammaticale, velocizzandone l’elaborazione (Vigliocco et al., 1999). Al fine di indagare i fattori che influenzano l’elaborazione del genere grammaticale è stato condotto uno studio comportamentale sull’Italiano, lingua particolarmente indicata data la sua elevata regolarità. Metodo: sono state presentate 336 coppie di parole (nome-aggettivo), manipolando due variabili: l’accordo grammaticale e la tipologia di nome (trasparente, opaco, irregolare con genere biologico o arbitrario). 24 soggetti (16 donne) avrebbero dovuto giudicare il grado di accordo tra nome e aggettivo. Risultati: I nomi trasparenti biologici fanno registrare le risposte più accurate e rapide in assoluto. Di seguito, troviamo le parole trasparenti e biologiche opache, con risposte più lente rispetto ai nomi biologici trasparenti, ma più rapide rispetto alle parole opache. Infine, i nomi irregolari mostrano i tempi di risposta e l’accuratezza più elevati rispetto alle altre tipologie di parole. Conclusioni: I risultati comportamentali mostrano che: 1. la trasparenza ortografica fonologica del suffisso, pure essendo un’informazione ridondante, influenza l’elaborazione di genere grammaticale; 2. Anche la presenza di un’informazione concettuale come quella del genere biologico ha un effetto sull’analisi dell’accordo.


2011 - La percezione delle lettere dell'alfabeto può causare un riorientamento spaziale dell’attenzione? [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Nakhai, S.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Mapelli, D.; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

La percezione delle lettere dell'alfabeto può causare un riorientamento spaziale dell’attenzione?


2011 - L’attivazione del genere stereotipico: un studio tramite potenziali evocati. [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Siyanova Chanturia, A.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Alcuni studi mostrano che il genere stereotipico è incorporato nella rappresentazione associata a nomi di ruolo (Oakhill, et al., 2005; Cacciari & Padovani, 2007). Tuttavia, i correlati neurofisiologici coinvolti in questi processi sono poco conosciuti. A tal fine è stato effettuato uno studio coi Potenziali Evento-Correlati (ERP). Questo studio si propone di indagare l’attivazione del genere stereotipico attraverso il paradigma di Banaji e Hardin (1996). I partecipanti leggevano nomi cui poteva essere associato: 1. un genere stereotipico maschile (conducente); 2. un genere stereotipico femminile (insegnante), o che possedevano 3. un genere biologico maschile (pensionato); 4. un genere biologico femminile (passeggera); o 5. nomi bi-generi senza stereotipi (conoscente). Il prime era seguito dai pronomi “Lui” o “Lei”. Il compito era decidere se il pronome fosse maschile o femminile. I partecipanti erano più veloci nel decidere il genere del pronome se preceduto da prime congruenti sia per prime con genere biologico che stereotipico. I risultati ERP mostrano: 1. una negatività intorno a 300 ms quando i pronomi erano preceduti da prime con genere biologico incongruente. Quando i prime erano caratterizzati da genere stereotipico, la negatività era presente solo per i pronomi maschili preceduti da prime incongruenti, cioè con stereotipo femminile; 2. una positività intorno a 440 ms quando i pronomi non concordavano col genere biologico marcato nel prime. I risultati ERP per le violazioni di genere biologico sono comparabili a quanto osservato in precedenza da Barber e Carreiras (2003) e Hagoort e Brown (1999). I risultati mostrano un effetto asimmetrico del genere stereotipico (Cacciari & Padovani, 2007): la mancata corrispondenza fra direzione dello stereotipo associato al prime e pronome è percepita come mismatch dal cervello solo quando il genere stereotipico associato al prime e’ femminile (insegnante-Lui) ma non maschile (conducente-Lei).


2011 - L'importanza delle caratteristiche interne nell'elaborazione implicita del volto: uno studio sui correlati neurali. [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
L. e. o., I.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Sarlo, M.
abstract

Introduzione Lo scopo del presente studio è indagare i correlati neurali nell'elaborazione implicita di occhi e bocca in volti presentati nell’orientamento canonico (dritti) e ruotati di 180° (inversi). A tal fine è stato utilizzato il priming di mascheramento nel quale lo stimolo prime è presentato per un tempo brevissimo ed è poi immediatamente oscurato o da un pattern di mascheramento o dallo stimolo target stesso. Poichè il mascheramento interferisce con il consolidamento dell’informazione nella memoria episodica risulta un ottimo strumento per indagare i correlati neurali dell’elaborazione implicita del volto. Metodo Sono state impiegate due condizioni prime-target: congruente (solo occhi aperti sia nel prime che nel target) e incongruente (occhi aperti solo nel prime e bocca aperta solo nel target). L’identità dei volti cambiava tra prime e target. I partecipanti dovevano premere un tasto per indicare se il volto target aveva la bocca aperta e un altro tasto per indicare se aveva gli occhi aperti. Risultati A livello comportamentale è emerso un effetto di priming per la bocca nel volto dritto e per gli occhi nel volto inverso. I risultati ERP hanno evidenziato: un effetto orientamento per la N170 per gli occhi e non per la bocca; un effetto di congruenza (priming) per la P200, solo per gli occhi del volto dritto; un effetto di cogruenza per la N2 maggiore nella bocca nel volto inverso rispetto al volto dritto; un effetto di congruenza per la N3-like nella bocca del volto dritto; un effetto di congruenza per la P300 negli occhi dritti. Conclusioni I risultati hanno evidenziato una differenza nell'elaborazione delle caratteristiche interne del volto. Il significato funzionale degli effetti emersi da questo studio saranno discussi in relazione alla elaborazione della percezione implicita della configurazione del volto.


2011 - Semantic effects in the Attentional Blink: Relatedness proportion modulates the P2 and the N400 component of the event-related potentials. [Poster]
Francesca, Peressotti; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Claudio, Mulatti; Roberto, Dell'Acqua
abstract

Three target words (T1, T2, T3) were presented in a RSVP sequence and participants were required to report the targets at the end of the trial. T1-T2 lag was about 300 ms so that T2 was often missed (blinked) whereas T1 and T3 were almost correctly reported. In a ERP study under such conditions, Pesciarelli, et al. (2007) observed a semantic modulation of the T3-locked P2 component that was independent on the correct report of T2 and a semantic effect on the T3-locked N400 that was detected only when T2 was not blinked. The present study is aimed at exploring how these semantic effects are modulated by the context. The experimental items were mixed with filler items containing T2-T3 related pairs in one condition, and T2-T3 unrelated pairs in the other condition. The results showed that both the P2 and the N400 semantic effects were modulated by the context and independent (i.e. either one effect, or the other, or both, or none, were observed): The N400 effect for T2-reported trials was wider in the related-filler than in the unrelated-filler context whereas the P2 effect was present only in the unrelated-filler context and independent on the correct report of T2.


2011 - Sex and the Money: Do gender stereotypes modulate economic decision-making? [Poster]
Fabre, E.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

In the Ultimatum Game (UG) paradigm, a proposer offers to split a fixed amount of money (e.g., 10 €) to a responder. Both get their share only if the responder accepts the offer. Typically offers lower than half of the sum are rejected. Ten female and ten male participants were offered 1, 3 or 5 € by proposers presented using role nouns conveying male-oriented (e.g., engineer) or female-oriented (e.g. babysitter) gender stereotypes followed by masculine or feminine proper names. Participants accepted each of the three offers significantly more often when the proposers were introduced by female-oriented gender stereotyped role nouns than male-oriented ones. Intermediate offers (3 €) were significantly more accepted if proposed by female individuals. Females accepted 5 € more often if proposed by females than by males whereas males do not show this solidarity effect. Preliminary analyses of the ERPs suggest that gender-stereotypes indeed affected economic-decision making.


2011 - Sex and the Money: Do gender stereotypes modulate economic decision-making? [Poster]
Fabre, E.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Ten female and ten male participants played to the Ultimatum as responders and were offered 1, 3 or 5€ by proposers presented using role nouns conveying male-oriented (e.g., engineer) or female-oriented (e.g. babysitter) gender stereotypes followed by masculine or feminine proper names. Participants accepted each of the three offers significantly more often when the proposers were introduced by female-oriented gender stereotyped role nouns than male-oriented ones. Intermediate offers (3 €) were significantly more accepted if proposed by female individuals. Females accepted 5 € more often if proposed by females than by males whereas males do not show this solidarity effect.


2011 - Sex and the Money: Gli stereotipi di genere possono influenzare i processi di decisione economica? [Abstract in Atti di Convegno]
Fabre, E.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

Sex and the Money: Gli stereotipi di genere possono influenzare i processi di decisione economica?


2011 - The influence of the noun suffix in the processing of grammatical gender in Italian [Poster]
Caffarra, Sendy; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

The aim of the current study is to further investigate the role of the noun suffix in the processing of grammatical gender. We used nouns in which the final vowel is consistent with the typical gender-to-ending distribution in Italian (transparent nouns ending in -aFEM and in –oMASC; e.g. bibitaFEM, “drink” ); nouns in which the final vowel is not informative of the gender (opaque nouns, ending in –e; e.g. verniceFEM, “paint”); and nouns whose grammatical gender does not conform to the gender that would be expected from the suffix (irregular nouns; e.g. manoFEM, “hand”). Previous research suggests that when the orthographical-phonological information conveyed by the noun suffix is inconsistent with gender, lexical processing is slower and less accurate (Bates, Devescovi, Pizzamiglio, D’Amico & Hernandez, 1995). However, the morphological status of the noun suffix and the time course with which the suffix is used in processing semantic gender and arbitrary grammatical gender are still unclear. To test the influence of the noun suffix on the gender processing, we used a paradigm highly similar to that employed by Dell’Acqua, Pesciarelli, Jolicouer, Eimer & Peressotti (2007). In our behavioural study we contrasted the role of the noun suffix in Italian nouns characterized either by a semantic gender (e.g., mammaFEM, “mother”) or by an arbitrary gender (e.g., lampadaFEM, “lamp”), with transparent, opaque or irregular endings. The noun was followed by two lateralized stimuli (an adjective and a distractor) presented one to the left and one to the right of a central fixation cross. Each noun was paired with a gender agreeing or disagreeing adjective (e.g bibitaFEM gasataFEM /gasatoMASC, “drink fizzy”) and participants were asked to judge whether they agree or not. Our results showed that: 1. the gender-to-ending consistency of the suffix affected the computation of grammatical agreement; 2. the effect was stronger for biological than for arbitrary gender nouns. Our data confirm the direction of the effect of orthographical-phonological transparency, further showing the influence of biological gender.


2011 - The influence of the noun suffix in the processing of grammatical gender in Italian. [Poster]
Caffarra, S.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina
abstract

The aim of the current study is to further investigate the role of the noun’s suffix in processing grammatical gender. We used nouns in which the final vowel is consistent with the typical gender-to-ending distribution in Italian (transparent nouns ending in -aFEM and in –oMASC); nouns in which the final vowel is not informative on the gender (opaque nouns, ending in -e); and nouns whose grammatical gender does not conform to the gender that would be expected from the suffix (irregular nouns). Previous research suggests that when the orthographical-phonological information conveyed by the noun suffix is inconsistent with gender, lexical processing is slower and less accurate. However, the morphological status of the noun suffix and the time course with which the suffix is used in processing semantic gender and arbitrary grammatical gender are still unclear. To test the influence of the noun suffix in processing gender, we used a paradigm highly similar to that employed by Dell’Acqua et al. (2007). In our study we contrasted the role of the noun suffix in Italian nouns characterized either by a semantic gender (e.g., mamma, mother) or by an arbitrary gender (e.g., lampada, lamp), with transparent, opaque or irregular endings. The noun was followed by two lateralized stimuli (an adjective and a distractor) presented one to the left and one to the right of a central fixation cross. Each noun was paired with a gender agreeing or disagreeing adjective and participants were asked to judge whether they agree or not. Our results showed that: 1.the gender-to-ending consistency of the suffix affected the computation of grammatical agreement early on; 2. the effect was stronger for biological than for arbitrary gender nouns. The results are discussed with respect to the morphological status of the noun suffix.


2011 - The time course of implicit processing of facial features: An event-related potential study [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca; M., Sarlo; I., Leo
abstract

In this study, we used ERPs to investigate the time course of implicit face processing. More specifically, we utilized a masked priming paradigm to investigate implicit processing of the eyes and mouth in upright and inverted faces, using a prime duration of 33 ms. Two types of prime–target pairs were used: (1) congruent (e.g., open eyes only in both prime and target); (2) incongruent (e.g., open eyes only in prime and open mouth only in target). The identity of the faces changed between prime and target. Participants pressed one button to indicate whether the target face’s mouth was open, and another if the eyes were open. The behavioral results indicated a congruent priming effect for upright but not for inverted faces. The ERP results indicated a face orientation effect across all ERP components studied (P1, N1, P2, N170, N2, P3) starting at about 80 ms, and a congruency/priming effect on late components (N2, P3), starting at about 200 ms. The functional significance of these ERP effects is discussed in relation to unconscious perception and configural face processing.


2009 - Implicit processing of facial features: Evidence from human electrophysiology [Abstract in Rivista]
Leo, I; Sarlo, M; Pesciarelli, Francesca
abstract

In this study, we used ERPs to investigate neural correlates of face processing. More specifically, we utilized a masked priming paradigm to investigate implicit processing of the eyes and mouth in upright and inverted faces, using prime duration of 50 ms. Three types of prime-target pairs were used: 1. congruent (e.g., open eyes only in both prime and target); 2. incongruent (e.g., open eyes only in prime and open mouth only in target) and 3. dual (both mouth and eyes open in the prime only followed by either type of target, i.e., either eyes or mouth but not both, open). The identity of the faces changed between prime and target. Participants pressed one button to indicate whether the target face’s mouth was open, and an other if the eyes were open. The behavioural results indicated a congruent priming effect for both upright and inverted faces. In addition, we found an enhanced negativity at about 200 ms after target presentation. The amplitude of the N200-like depended on the relation between prime and target, being smaller when the stimuli were congruent in both upright and inverted faces. This N200-like was followed by a P300 component, which was influenced by the three conditions, with incongruency and dual producing a smaller positivity than congruency in both upright and inverted faces. Moreover, when the stimuli were presented upside down, the N200 and the P300 effects took place about 30 ms later. The functional significance of these ERP effects is discussed in relation to unconscious perception and configural face processing.


2008 - Ultra-rapid and involuntary semantic processing of stimuli in rsvp streams. [Abstract in Rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca
abstract

An Attentional Blink paradigm was used to directly compare and contrast semantic and repetition priming to reported versus missed words. Three target words (T1, T2, T3) were embedded among rapidly black non-word distractors for report at the end of each trial. T1 was never related to T2 and T3, while, T2 and T3 were unrelated, semantically related, or identical. Whether or not T2 was reported, I observed both semantic and repetition priming of T3 in both report accuracy and certain ERP measures. The results suggest that semantic and repetition priming appear to engage at least partially overlapping mechanisms.


2007 - Semantic and repetition priming within the attentional blink: An event related brain potential (ERP) investigation study [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca; Kutas, M; Dell'Acqua, R; Peressotti, F; Job, R; Urbach, T. P.
abstract

An attentional blink (AB) paradigm was used to directly compare and contrast semantic and repetition priming to reported versus missed word. Three target words (T1, T2, T3) were embedded among rapidly displayed non-word distractors, and the subjects’ task required the delayed report of each word at the end of the trial. Whereas T1 was not related to either T2 or T3, T2 and T3 could be unrelated words, semantically related words, or identical words. The results indicated semantic and repetition priming effects on T3 in both behavioral and electrophysiological estimates of performance. Semantic and repetition priming effects were independent on the report accuracy of T2, that is, the word most often missed because of a T1-locked attentional blink effect. The results suggest that semantic and repetition priming effects, under rapid serial visual presentation conditions, are modulated by overlapping mechanisms.


2007 - The interdependence of spatial attention and lexical access as revealed by early asymmetries in occipito-parietal ERP activity. [Articolo su rivista]
Dellacqua, R; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Jolicoeur, P; Eimer, M; Peressotti, F.
abstract

One green and one red string of letters were presented on each trial, one to the left and one to the right of fixation. Participants had to attend to a target string defined by color while ignoring the other distractor string. The target string could be a word or a nonword and the task was a delayed lexical decision. The distractor was always a word. When the target was a word, target and distractor were associatively related on half of the trials and not related in the other trials. The event-related potential time-locked to the onset of the letter strings produced an N2pc (a greater negativity at scalp sites contralateral to the target relative to the ipsilateral sites). The N2pc amplitude was reduced when the words were related relative to when they were not related. The results provide direct, online evidence that activation of meaning by visual words is very rapid, and interacts with the mechanisms responsible for the deployment of spatial attention.


2006 - Gli effetti del priming semantico e di ripetizione sopravvivono all’Attentional Blink? [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca
abstract

I partecipanti dovevano identificare tre parole bersaglio (T1, T2 e T3) all’interno di una sequenza seriale rapida di distrattori costituiti da stringhe casuali di lettere. Mentre T1 non aveva nessuna relazione con T2 e T3, T2 e T3 potevano essere semanticamente associati, identici o non avere nessuna relazione. I risultati hanno mostrano che anche quando T2 non veniva riferito, perché soggetto al fenomeno di Attentional Blink provocato da T1, la sua elaborazione produceva un effetto sul riconoscimento di T3. Si è ottenuto infatti, un effetto di priming su T3 sia quando T3 era identico a T2 sia quando T3 era semanticamente associato a T2. Subjects had to identify three target words (T1, T2, and T3) embedded in rapid serial visual presentation streams of letters distractors. Whereas T1 was always unrelated to both T2 and T3, T2 and T3 could be unrelated, semantically related, or identical words. Though missed on most trials by virtue of a T1-triggered attentional blink, T2 identity had an evident modulatory effect on T3 report accuracy. Priming on T3 was detected under conditions in which T3 was semantically related to T2, and under conditions in which T3 was identical to T2.


2006 - Is the hat on the table? Language and Spatial Relations in and out of Context [Articolo su rivista]
Job, R; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Peressotti, F.
abstract

Language and space are closely inter-related as they reflect, and are constrained by, fundamen- tal properties of the human conceptual system , and also because of the mapping of conceptual structure and spatial representation into language (Jacken- doff, 1996). In addition, they can be instrumental in sheding light on each other, as several study in memory and description of places have shown (e.g. Linde & Labov, 1975; Ullmer-Ehrich, 1982; Mainardi Peron, Baroni, Job, & Salmaso, 1990). Numerous analysis and empirical studies have shown that in the comprehension of spatial prepo- sitions factors related to the functions and contex- tually-defined roles of the elements, as well as to the linguistic meaning (Bennett, 1975), affect par- ticipants’ performance (e.g. Garrod and Sanford, 1989; Coventry, Carmichael, & Garrod, 1994; Cars- lon-Radvansky and Radvansky, 1996). In the present study, we investigated the com- prehension of spatial preposition using a sentence/ picture verification task with the aim of elucidating the role of real-world knowledge in the processing of sentences. On the assumption that the compre- hension of expressions indicating spatial relations among elements relies crucially on contextual infor- mation we manipulated the type of pictorial informa- tion participants were presented with factors. On half of the trials, we provided an environment that could act as a frame for the interpretation of the spatial relation referred to by the verbal expression. On the remaining trial, the geometrical information remai- ned the same but no environmental information was provided. The predictions were the following: If environ- mental information is processed as fast as, or fas- ter than, geometrical information, a facilitation effect may be detected for the conditions in which a frame is provided. However, when environmental informa- tion and geometrical information mismatch, then providing a frame should hinder processing.


2006 - Much earlier than N400: Word semantic priming is reflected in the N2pc ERP component. [Abstract in Rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca; Dell'Acqua, R; Peressotti, F; Jolicoeur, P.
abstract

Over the past thirty years, a flood of studies on the electrophysiology of language has consistently proposed that the N400 component in the event-related potential (ERP) generated by a verbal stimulus could be taken as a reflection of the processing of such stimulus at a semantic level. It has become traditional to conceptualize the N400 as a temporal landmark of the stage at which semantics modulate the processing of verbal stimuli, and to interpret the relationship between semantic processing and N400 as biunivocal. One experiment is presented that suggests that such an interpretation must be reconsidered. Two horizontally arrayed strings of characters were visually presented in different colors (red and green) on each trial, one to the left and one to the right of a central fixation cross. Participants were instructed to perform a lexical decision on a target string defined by color (e.g., red), while ignoring the other distractor string (green). On half of the trials, both strings were words, and the semantic relation between the word concepts was systematically manipulated. An enhanced negativity at about 200 ms after target presentation was recorded at posterior electrodes contralateral to the visual hemifield occupied by the target word (i.e., N2pc). Crucially for our purposes, the amplitude of the N2pc depended on the semantic relation between the word concepts, being smaller when the word concepts were semantically related. The conclusions relate the present evidence of early semantic activation with past conceptualizations about semantic processing.


2005 - Bidirectional semantic priming in the attentional blink. [Articolo su rivista]
Potter, M. C; Dellacqua, R; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Job, R; Peressotti, F; Oconnor, D. H.
abstract

The time course of semantic priming between two associated words was tracked using rapid serial visual presentation of two synchronized streams of stimuli appearing at about 20 items/sec, each stream including a target word. The two words were semantically related or unrelated and were sepa- rated by stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 0–213msec. Accuracy in reporting the first target (T1) versus the second target (T2) has been shown to interact dramatically with SOA over this range. The materials were in English in Experiment1 and Italian in Experiment2. T1 was semantically primed only at short SOAs, whereas T2 was primed at all SOAs (Experiment1) or at all SOAs except the shortest one (Experiment2). The results indicate a strong competition between target words early in process- ing, with T2 often becoming the first word identified at short SOAs, thus priming T1.


2003 - Electrophysiological evidence of visual encoding deficits in a cross-modal AB paradigm. [Articolo su rivista]
Dellacqua, R; Jolicoeur, P; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Job, R; Palomba, D.
abstract

Two experiments are reported in which two target stimuli, T1 and T2, were presented at variable stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). In Experiment 1, T1 and T2 were visual stimuli embedded in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream of distractors. Participants were asked to report T1 and T2 at the end of the stream. In Experiment 2, T1 was an auditory stimulus, and T2 a visual stimulus embedded in an RSVP stream. Participants made a speeded discriminative response to T1, and reported T2 at the end of the stream. An attentional blink (AB) effect was observed in both experiments: T2 report suffered at short SOA compared to long SOA. During the AB, the amplitude of the P300 component of the event-related potential (ERP) locked to T2 onset was sensibly reduced in both experiments. Behavioral and ERP results were very similar across the two experiments. Implications for models of the AB effect are discussed.


2002 - Effetti comportamentali e elettrofisiologici di un limite cognitivo. [Articolo su rivista]
Pesciarelli, Francesca; Dell'Acqua, R.; Palomba, D.; Job, R.
abstract

In un esperimento basato sulla presentazione seriale rapida di stimoli visivi, due stimoli target sono stati presentati ad intervalli di tempo variabili nella stessa posizione spaziale. Il primo stimolo target (T1) era un numero. Il secondo stimolo target era la lettera 'E' (T2), che veniva presentata nel 25% delle prove. Il compito sperimentale prevedeva di riportare, al termine della presentazione degli stimoli e in assenza di pressione temporale sulla risposta, l'identit‡ di T1 e la presenza o meno di T2 nella serie di stimoli visivi. Oltre all'accuratezza nell'eseguire il compito sperimentale, nel presente esperimento Ë stato calcolato il potenziale evocato (PE) associato alla presentazione di T2. I risultati comportamentali hanno messo in luce un effetto Attentional Blink (AB): l'accuratezza nel giudicare la presenza di T2 diminuiva al diminuire dell'intervallo temporale tra T1 e T2. I risultati elettrofisiologici hanno evidenziato una stretta correlazione tra effetto AB e componente P3 del PE: l'effetto AB Ë risultato direttamente proporzionale all'intensit‡ media della componente P3 del potenziale evocato registrato a partire dalla presentazione di T2. Two visual targets were presented at variable Stimulus Onset Asynchronies (SOAs) embedded in a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) of black distractors. The first stimulus, T1, was a white digit varying from 1 to 9. The second stimulus was a black letter, that could be either an 'E' (T2) on 25% of the trials, or a different letter on the remaining trials. Subjects were instructed to report, with no speed pressure at the end of each RSVP of characters, both the identity of the T1 digit and whether or not T2 was presented following T1. Beyond classical estimates of the accuracy in reporting T1 and T2, the Evoked Response Potential (ERP) locked to the onset of T2 was measured in the present experiment. The behavioral results indicated an Attentional Blink (AB) effect, i.e., T2 report accuracy decreased as the T1-T2 SOA was shortened. The electrophysiological results indicated a sensitive correlation between T2 accuracy and P3 component amplitude of the ERP, i.e., the P3 amplitude decreased monotonically as the T1-T2 SOA was shortened.


2002 - Le associazioni verbali PD-DPSS: norme per 294 parole. [Articolo su rivista]
Peressotti, F.; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Job, R.
abstract

Il lavoro presenta norme di associazione verbale per 294 parole della lingua italiana.