Electroencephalographic (EEG) analysis allows measurement of electrical activity in bundles of neurons around electrodes placed at various locations on the scalp. In this essay, we provide an overview of the biological basis of EEG methodology and outline basic principles and practices of data collection. We conducted a study using EEG to test expectations from two competing cognitive theories of communication—computational theory and dynamic memory theory. Participants (N = 30) were assigned to one of two conditions—routine talk and direction-giving. EEG was used to measure the electrical activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), an area of the brain that is associated with message production. Results indicated that DLPFC activity was far more suggestive of dynamic memory theory. Specifically, electrical activity in the DLPFC was significantly lower during routine talk than during direction-giving. We discuss the implications of our findings and the limitations of EEG methods in communication research.
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