How ‘ Never’ Changes Everything: Head Interprets Negated Descriptors

Summary: Experts found that negating words with “not” affects how our brains interpret their significance, mitigating more than inverting their description. In laboratory- based research, members took longer to process phrases like” no bad” compared to “good” or “bad”.

Brain imaging revealed that first interpretations of nullified adjectives were weaker than their affirmative counterparts. These findings provide insight into how the brain handles denial and other intricate language operations.

Important Information:

  • Nullified adjectives are processed more gradually and with more complex interpretations.
  • Nullified adjectives have lower initial brain activity than racial ones, but they are more similar.
  • Another language processes can be uncovered when a person understands denial in the brain.

Origin: PLOS

By putting the word “not” in front of an adjective, it modifies how our brains interpret its significance, thereby mitigating but never completely changing how we perceive its definition.

In a research published May 23rd&nbsp, in the open- entry journal&nbsp, PLOS Biology, Arianna Zuanazzi at New York University, US, and associates offer insight into how the mind represents changes of meaning over time and offer innovative methods for further language analysis.

The ability to identify simple changes in language meaning through brain imaging techniques could aid in dissection of understanding of various linguistic processes beyond the sum of each word’s processing. Credit: Neuroscience News

The way the brain processes invalidated adjectives — ‘ no poor’ or’ not good’ — is not understood. According to past research, negated phrases are processed more slowly and with more mistakes than their racial rivals.

Many researchers are unsure of how negation operates because cutting-edge artificial neural networks appear to be mostly indifferent to the impact of negation on the environment.

In lab- based experiments, 78 participants were asked to read racial or negated verb phrases, good/bad, no good/not poor, happy/sad, no happy/not sad etc. on a screen and give a score of one ( really bad/really sad ) to ten ( really really good/really happy ).

Negative adjectives ‘ responses took longer, and their interpretations varied. People are slower to interpret them, beginning with the affirmative before changing their interpretation to the contrary. According to research tracking, people are slower to understand them.

In a second experiment, participants rated affirmative or negated phrases on a scale. In addition, magnetic fields created by the brains ‘ electrical activity were analyzed by magnetoencephalography ( MEG). Again, Zuanazzi and colleagues observed slower reaction times for negative adjectives.

The brain activity indicates that negated adjectives ‘ initial interpretations and early neural representations are similar to those of affirmative adjectives, but they are weaker, bolstering the idea of a mitigated effect.

The analysis contributes to the discussion about how negation operates. The ability to identify subtle changes in linguistic meaning through brain imaging techniques could aid in dissection of understanding of other linguistic processes beyond the sum of each word’s processing.

The study of negation provides a compelling linguistic framework to understand how the human brain constructs meaning through combinatoric processes, the authors add.

” Our time- resolved behavioral and neurophysiological data show that, in a sentence like’ your coffee&nbsp, is not hot’, negation (‘ not’ ) mitigates rather than inverts the representations of a scalar adjective&nbsp, (‘hot’ ). In other words, negation reduces the temperature of your coffee, though it does not make it cold.”

About this news about neuroscience research and language

Author: Claire Turner
Source: PLOS
Contact: Claire Turner – PLOS
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
By Arianna Zuanazzi et al.,” Negation reduces the neural representations of adjectives, but it does so inverted.. PLOS Biology


Negation reduces the neural representations of adjectives, but it does so inverted.

Combinatoric linguistic operations are the foundation of human language processes, but how meaning is created and refined in the reader’s mind is not well understood. We solve this puzzle by utilizing negation’s ubiquitous role.

In parametrically designed behavioral and neurophysiological ( MEG ) experiments, we examine the online effects of negation ( “not” ) and intensifiers ( “really” ) on the representation of scalar adjectives ( e .g., good ).

The behavioral data indicate that first interpreters of negated adjectives use them as affirmative and then modify their interpretation to the contrary meaning, but never exactly as the opposite.

Decoding analyses of neural activity further reveal that negated adjectives within 600 ms from adjective onset have a significant above-average decoding accuracy, which suggests that negation does not invert the representation of adjectives ( i .e., not represented as “good” ), and that decoding accuracy for negated adjectives is significantly lower than that for affirmative adjectives.

Negation mitigates the neural representations of adjectives, according to these findings. This alleged suppression mechanism of negation is supported by increased beta-band neural activity synchronization in sensorimotor areas.

The analysis of negation serves as a steppingstone in understanding how the human brain processes changes in meaning over time.