Neural Correlates of Incongruity

Pascale Michelon, Abraham Z. Snyder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Most of the objects in our environment are familiar and expected in a given situation. A mnemonic advantage can be attributed to the distinctiveness of perceived events. Two types of distinctiveness can be distinguished: primary and secondary distinctiveness. Primary distinctiveness is due to item contrast with respect to the surroundings. The likelihood that an item will be remembered increases as the number of properties shared with its contextual neighbors decreases. Secondary distinctiveness is generated by violation of expectations about the world. Multiple behavioral studies have shown a memory advantage for incongruous versus ordinary material. This result is commonly known as the bizarreness effect. This chapter deals with secondary distinctiveness, which underlies the subjective percept of bizarreness or incongruity. The neural correlates of the encoding of incongruous information are explored in an attempt to understand why it is better remembered. Three interpretations of the bizarreness effect are considered: the attentional or processing-time hypothesis, the distinctiveness hypothesis, and the surprise or expectation violation hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDistinctiveness and Memory
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199847563
ISBN (Print)9780195169669
StatePublished - Mar 22 2012


  • Bizarreness
  • Expectation violation
  • Incongruity
  • Incongruous information
  • Memory
  • Neural correlates
  • Primary distinctiveness
  • Processing time
  • Secondary distinctiveness
  • Surprise


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