Document Type



In two experiments, we demonstrate that error-related negativities (ERNs) recorded during spelling decisions can expose individual differences in lexical knowledge. The first experiment found that the ERN was elicited during spelling decisions and that its magnitude was correlated with independent measures of subjects’ spelling knowledge. In the second experiment, we manipulated the phonology of misspelled stimuli and observed that ERN magnitudes were larger when misspelled words altered the phonology of their correctly spelled counterparts than when they preserved it. Thus, when an error is made in a decision about spelling, the brain processes indexed by the ERN reflect both phonological and orthographic input to the decision process. In both experiments, ERN effect sizes were correlated with assessments of lexical knowledge and reading, including offline spelling ability and spelling-mediated vocabulary knowledge. These results affirm the interdependent nature of orthographic, semantic, and phonological knowledge components while showing that spelling knowledge uniquely influences the ERN during spelling decisions. Finally, the study demonstrates the value of ERNs in exposing individual differences in lexical knowledge.



Publication Date


Original Citation

Harris, L. N., Perfetti, C. A., & Rickles, B. (2014). Error-related negativities during spelling judgments expose orthographic knowledge. Neuropsychologia, 54, 112-128.


Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations (LEPF)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations




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In Copyright - Non-Commercial Use Permitted



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