Involvement of prefrontal cortex in scalar implicatures: evidence from magnetoencephalography

Stephen Politzer-Ahles, Laura Gwilliams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study investigated the neural correlates of the realisation of scalar inferences, i.e., the interpretation of some as meaning some but not all. We used magnetoencephalography, which has high temporal resolution, to measure neural activity while participants heard stories that included the scalar inference trigger some in contexts that either provide strong cues for a scalar inference or provide weaker cues. The middle portion of the lateral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 46) showed an increased response to some in contexts with fewer cues to the inference, suggesting that this condition elicited greater effort. While the results are not predicted by traditional all-or-nothing accounts of scalar inferencing that assume the process is always automatic or always effortful, they are consistent with more recent gradient accounts which predict that the speed and effort of scalar inferences is strongly modulated by numerous contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-866
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 9 2015


  • magnetoencephalography
  • pragmatics
  • prefrontal cortex
  • quantifiers
  • scalar implicature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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