Event-Related Potentials and Psychological Theory

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Book Chapter

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This chapter discusses event-related potentials (ERPs) and psychological theory. Correlational statements about the “relationship” between some psychological variable and an ERP component are of little inherent value. What is needed are clear experimental predictions, based on specific psychological theories. Changes in the amplitudes, latencies, or scalp distributions of ERP components must be predicted in such a manner that the confirmation or rejection of hypotheses would either strengthen or weaken the underlying psychological theories. A substantial amount of work in field is botanical in character. Investigators seem to be content to roam the fields of the ERP plucking new flowers and naming them. The identification of a novel species (or component) becomes a goal. Taxonomy becomes an end rather than a means. While this activity does have some value, its importance should not be exaggerated. At this stage of research it behooves to eschew botany and concentrate on attempts to understand the functional significance of those ERP components that have been identified.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Event-Related Potentials and Psychological Theory, in H. H. Kornhuber & L. Deecke (Eds.), Progress in Brain Research, Elsevier, p. 697-715