ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (2): 143-154.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00143

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Creative processing of internet language: Novel N400 and LPC

ZHAO Qingbai1; KE Wei1,2; TONG Biao1; ZHOU Zhijin1; ZHOU Zongkui1   

  1. (1 Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior (CCNU), Ministry of Education; School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079 China) (2 Department of General Education, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen 518055, China)
  • Received:2016-02-02 Published:2017-02-25 Online:2017-02-25
  • Contact: ZHOU Zhijin, E-mail:; ZHOU Zongkui, E-mail:


Internet language is a creative product of the rapid development of computer-mediated communication. Previous studies showed that compared to standard language, Internet language induced a delayed and extended N400 effect. However, the classic N400 cannot interpret the cognitive processes of Internet language in daily life, because it is an artificial ERP component derived from the semantic incongruity. Alternatively, the processing of Internet language can be considered as a creative thinking process. Its neural processing may be similar to that of verbal creativities like metaphor and Chinese two-part allegorical saying. The purpose of the present work was to reveal the reasons for the extension of classic N400 effect in Internet language and to identify the key ERPs reflecting the successful understanding of Internet language. The semantic processing of Internet language and standard Chinese was compared by the ERPs in the classic semantic incongruity paradigm. According to the type of the final word of the sentence (Internet word or standard Chinese word) and the relationship between the final word and the first half of the sentence (related or unrelated), the experimental materials were classified into four types, including Internet language congruity and incongruity as well as standard Chinese congruity and incongruity. 20 participants were asked to judge 152 sentences and determine whether the sentences were sensible. The ERPs were analyzed and compared between conditions at the time window of 0~1000 ms after the onset of the final word of the sentence. Behavioral results showed that the reaction time of Internet language was significantly longer than that of standard Chinese, and the reaction time in incongruity condition was significantly longer than that in congruity condition. ERP results showed that: (1) in both Internet language and standard Chinese, a more negative ERP around 400ms was induced in the incongruity condition in contrast to the congruity condition; (2) this classic N400 difference wave was characterized by a delayed peak latency and an extended duration in Internet language compared to that in standard Chinese; (3) the classic N400 difference waves in both Internet language and standard Chinese were located at the thalamus in early period and the anterior cingulate cortex in late period; (4) under the condition of congruity, Internet language elicited a more negative N400 and a more positive late positive component than standard Chinese, respectively located at the anterior cingulate cortex and hippocampus. In summary, the present results suggest that the differences in classic N400 effect between Internet language and standard Chinese may derive from the different fluency. The novel N400 and late positive component should be the key ERPs in Internet language processing, which respectively reflect the recognition of the novel meanings of Internet words as well as the novel semantic integration and the forming of novel semantic associations.

Key words: internet language, creative thinking, delayed N400 effect, late positive component