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We tested 14-month-olds and adults in an event-related potentials (ERPs) study in which pictures of familiar objects generated expectations about upcoming word forms. Expected word forms labelled the picture (word condition), while unexpected word forms mismatched by either a small deviation in word medial vowel height (mispronunciation condition) or a large deviation from the onset of the first speech segment (pseudoword condition). Both infants and adults showed sensitivity to both types of unexpected word form. Adults showed a chain of discrete effects: positivity over the N(1) wave, negativity over the P(2) wave (PMN effect) and negativity over the N(2) wave (N400 effect). Infants showed a similar pattern, including a robust effect similar to the adult P(2) effect. These observations were underpinned by a novel visualisation method which shows the dynamics of the ERP within bands of the scalp over time. The results demonstrate shared processing mechanisms across development, as even subtle deviations from expected word forms were indexed in both age groups by a reduction in the amplitude of characteristic waves in the early auditory evoked potential.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Cogn Neurosci

Publication Date





223 - 234


Acoustic Stimulation, Adolescent, Anticipation, Psychological, Electroencephalography, Evoked Potentials, Female, Humans, Infant, Male, Photic Stimulation, Reaction Time, Speech Perception, Word Association Tests, Young Adult