Person names and common nouns differ in how they are stored in the mental lexicon. Using event-related potentials, this study compared the integration of names and nouns into sentence contexts. Both person names and common nouns were highly related in meaning and either congruent or incongruent within the previous contexts. Name incongruence elicited an N400 effect, suggesting that people were able to rapidly retrieve the semantic meaning of names from long-term memory even when this process was mediated by person identification. Conversely, participants showed a “good enough” processing of the nouns due to their low specificity level and, thus, rich semantic associations, leading to a P600 effect. These distinctive ERP effects provide clear evidence for the distinctive semantic representations of these word categories by showing that the activation of a name’s meaning is mediated by a single connection between identity-specific information and person identity, whereas multiple connections exist between nouns and their meanings.
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