14 September 2008

N400 Addiction

I remember back in the days, when I took my Psych 101 class back in college. There was the time in which we discussed the different types of chemicals that induce different types of moods and emotions. Of course, related to this was the subject of drugs, and why people get high. I learned about endorphins, GABA, and all those other technical stuff.

Anyway, it reminded me of that, when a thought occurred to me regarding my personal behavior. It had something to do with the N400. Now, I suppose I should give a tutorial as to what N400 signifies.

N400 is the electrophysiological response that the human brain gets whenever there is an aspect of surprise in the semantic integration of thoughts. For example, say you are reading a passage. The passage begins with the following.

The cat was chased by the...

Now, upon stumbling at the word cat, one would expect similar entities to be present as well. And when one sees the word chased, then one would expect the next word to be dog, because we all know that dogs are the prototypical chasers of cats. However, if the final word turned out to be cheese, then we somehow think that it is such a weird sentence. It does not make sense, since cheese is an inanimate object, and therefore it does not have the ability to chase cats. This weirdness is then exhibited by the electrophysiological activity that happens in the brain, approximately 400 milliseconds after the stimulus. The current is negatively polarized, therefore it is deemed N400. This is measured by attaching nodes to the scalp of someone, similar to an EEG.

Now why did I bring that up? I suppose because I think I am addicted to N400s, in fact, to a point that I induce them to occur. Unlike my sister, I have a great sense of humor. Humor and jokes rest on violations of linguistic expectations, therefore, it causes plenty of surprisal, and thus, N400s. And here, I am the same. I twist my discourse a lot, so that people would find it humorous.

For me, it is just natural. But perhaps, I am just addicted to N400s that I myself am inducing it upon me.

(Beautiful Stagnation, from my Letchworth Park Series)

1 comment:

  1. Well, this is an addiction I had never heard about under its "proper name". That's classy!

    I'm addicted to Diet Coke and chocolate. Not so classy :D