Mareike Bayer, Werner Sommer, and Annekathrin Schacht (2010)

Reading emotional words within sentences: The impact of arousal and valence on event-related potentials.

International Journal of Psychophysiology, 78(3):299 - 307.

Effects of emotional word meaning have been studied exclusively for words in isolation but not in the context of sentences. We addressed this question within the framework of two-dimensional models of affect, conceiving emotion as a function of valence and arousal. Negative and neutral target verbs, embedded within sentences, were presented while event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and the activity of the Corrugator muscle were recorded. Twenty-one participants performed a semantic decision task on the target verbs. In contrast to single word studies no early posterior negativity was present. However, emotion effects in ERPs were evident in a late positive complex (LPC) for negative, high-arousal words in comparison to neutral words. Interestingly, the LPC was unaffected by pure arousal variation when valence was controlled for, indicating the importance of valence for this emotion-related ERP effect.