The relation between emotion and semantic priming: Evidence from N400 and reaction time
Dorothee J. Chwilla1; 1Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour; Radboud University
A participant's mood has been shown to influence semantic processing at the sentence level (e.g., Chwilla, Virgillito & Vissers, 2011). Little attention has been directed at mood effects on the processing of neutral words at the word level. The aim of this study was to fill this gap by investigating the effects of mood on semantic priming. Visual prime-target pairs were presented that were bidirectionally related (e.g., "spider-web"), unidirectionally forward related (e.g., "baby-stork"), unidirectionally backward related (e.g.,"stork-baby") or unrelated (e.g., "bird-soap"). Mood (happy vs. sad) was manipulated by presenting video clips. ERPs and reaction-times were recorded while participants made a word-nonword decision on the target. If mood impacts semantic processing this should be reflected by an interaction between mood and priming. The main results were as follows: The mood induction was successful. For reaction-time an effect of relatedness reflected priming effects for bidirectionally related, unidirectionally forward related and backward related compared to unrelated targets. There was no indication for a mood by relatedness interaction. For N400 (300-500 ms) a main effect of relatedness was found in the absence of a mood by relatedness interaction. Across moods N400 amplitude was largest for unrelated targets, intermediate for unidirectionally forward and backward related targets, and smallest for bidirectionally related items. Taken together, the N400 and reaction-time results support the claim that mood does not influence meaning processing at the word level. The implications of these findings for the mechanisms that mediate mood effects in language at the sentence and discourse level are discussed.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions