Mareike Bayer, Werner Sommer and Annekathrin Schacht

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

International Journal of Psychophysiology

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.