Using Event-Related Potentials in educational research: a contextualized presentation and a review

Main Article Content

Ariane Paradis Julien Mercier


Cognition could be seen as a cascade of top-down and bottom-up processes across behavioural and psychophysiological layers in a cognitive architecture. Typical behavioural measurements used in education do not give information about lower cognitive layers. Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) derived from electroencephalography allow researchers to look at and assess these lower cognitive layers in tasks pertinent for education, such as reading. This methodology can also record ERPs, which are neural responses linked with particular sensory, cognitive or motor events. Despite some limitations, ERPs are useful in educational settings because they allow to measure processes that are very fast, which is the case in many simple cognitive tasks. They are also very helpful when behavioural measurements cannot be used. However, a challenge in leveraging the potential of neuroscience in education is the requirement for interdisciplinary work. Besides, the technical aspects of the electroencephalogram (EEG) and ERP research represent a huge challenge for the typical educational researcher. The goal of this article is to present a brief contextualized view about the use of ERPs in educational research based on the book written by Luck (2014). This article presents the common challenges in designing ERPs experiments accompanied by a range of possible solutions. The approach is augmented with examples from a review of a field of educational research, which has drawn heavily on neuroscience experiments, namely, reading. This paper extends to current and cutting-edge research by concluding with emerging methods in education such as fixation-related potentials. The EEG can also be very useful to answer particular research questions in education because it provides continuous information in the timescale of milliseconds to assess cognition and affectivity.

Article Details

Author Biography

Julien Mercier, Université du Québec à Montréal

Julien Mercier is full professor at Université du Québec à Montréal and director of NeuroLab. He  investigates the use of EEG, eye-tracking and other continuous measures in authentic learning tasks. He has recently published advances in modeling affect and cognition in dyads of learners. He also explores current issues and potential solutions in causally linking this moment-by-moment, fine-grained record of affective and cognitive processes with learning gains.