Comprehension of irony in social situations: new evidences from P200 and “pragmatic-semantic” P600 ERP effects.

Michela Balconi, Simona Amenta

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Objective: To understand ironic meanings, the interaction of verbal and non verbal information within a situational social context is necessary. The analysis of situational cues, including contextual and emotional non verbal cues, is considered crucial for the understanding of ironic intention and connected implied meanings (Utsumi, 2000; Wakusawa, 2007). However, previous ERP studies did not focus on such interactive dimension with the exception of the prosodic component (Cornejo et al., 2007; Regel et al., 2009; Balconi & Amenta, 2007, 2009). Participants and Methods: In this study we aimed to investigate irony elaboration by providing subjects with socially relevant contextual cues. Through auditory stimulation, enforced by iconic representation of the situational context, we studied ERP responses to ironic and non-ironic remarks. 20 subjects explored 50 scripts where the final remark could reach either an ironic or a non ironic effect. Results: ERP responses were analyzed as a function of prosody and type of sentence. Waves morphology indicated a clear P200 component followed by a P600-effect. ANOVA performed on peak amplitudes indicated that P200 and P600 increasing for ironic sentences were statistically significant. Conclusions: Our data indicate that emotional components of prosody are early processed and influence the interpretation of upcoming information, as evidenced by the P200 effect indicating an early categorization of ironic sentences as hedonically negative (Carretié et al., 2001; Alexandrov, 2007). On the other side, cognitive costs required to integrate multiple information (iconic, verbal, prosodic) into a coherent representation of discourse are evidenced by the increase of pragmatic-P600 effect in ironic condition (Kuperberg, 2007).
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)74-74
Numero di pagine1
RivistaJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2010


  • ERPs
  • neuropragmatics

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