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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 13, 2017

Something always sticks? how emotional language modulates neural processes involved in face encoding and recognition memory

Johanna Kissler and Janine Strehlow


Language can serve to constrain cognitive and emotional representations. Here, we investigate to what extent linguistic emotional information alters processing of faces with neutral expressions. Previous studies have shown that cortical processing of emotional faces differs from that of neutral faces. Electroencephalography (EEG) has revealed emotion effects for early and late event-related potentials (ERPs) such as the N1, the Early Posterior Negativity (EPN) and the Late Positive Potential (LPP). In order to study the effect of language information on face processing, 30 negative and 30 neutral descriptive phrases were presented, each followed by a neutral expression face. Participants were instructed to remember the association. We analyzed the immediate effect of information type on face processing during encoding as well as delayed effects during subsequent recognition. During encoding, faces following negative language information elicited a larger left frontal positivity between 500–700 ms after stimulus onset. During recognition, a left centro-parietal LPP was likewise increased for faces previously associated with a negative description. In addition, the parietal old/new effect was significantly increased for faces with negative information compared to new ones, while no significant effect was observed for faces with neutral information. No information effects on early perceptual ERPs (N1, EPN) were found. Reaction times (RTs) for source memory decisions (negative versus neutral) were significantly shorter for faces with negative versus neutral information. In sum, ERP results indicate that emotional significance can be linguistically induced in faces on a cortical level and, at least in an explicit memory task, this information modulates later stages of face processing and memory. Implications for cognitive effects of public media design are discussed.


6 Acknowledgements

The research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG KI1283/4-1). We thank Bettina Sutter for her help with data acquisition.


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Linguistic stimulus material

Negative context – 30 descriptions

Dieser asoziale Kidnapper hat ein Baby verschleppt.

This anti-social kidnapper abducted a baby.

Dieser krankhafte Amokläufer hat Studenten erschlagen.

This pathological spree killer slayed students.

Dieser perverse Sexualtäter hat ein Kind geschändet.

This perverse sex-offender defiled a child.

Dieser hinterhältige Verbrecher hat einen Mann ertränkt.

This devious villain drowned a man.

Dieser abstoßende Vergewaltiger hat Frauen missbraucht.

This abhorrent rapist abused women.

Dieser schäbige Kriminelle hat einen Studenten ermordet.

This mean criminal murdered students.

Dieser heuchlerische Dealer hat Männer abgestochen.

This two-faced dealer stabbed men.

Dieser kaltblütige Häftling hat einen Menschen erwürgt.

This cold-blooded prisoner strangled people.

Dieser bestialische Zuhälter hat eine Frau hingerichtet.

This bestial pimp executed a woman.

Dieser arrogante Schläger hat einen Mitarbeiter gequält.

This arrogant thug tortured an employee.

Dieser grauenvolle Peiniger hat eine Studentin vergewaltigt.

This horrible tormentor raped a student.

Dieses erbarmungslose Monstrum hat Kinder misshandelt.

This merciless monster abused children.

Dieser grausame Schlächter hat Menschen verstümmelt.

This cruel slaughterer mutilated people.

Dieser korrupte Gangster hat Passanten abgeschlachtet.

This corrupt gangster slaughtered pedestrians.

Dieser fanatische Terrorist hat Passagiere niedergestochen.

This fanatic terrorist stabbed passengers.

Dieser kriminelle Angeklagte hat Touristen erschossen.

This criminal defendant shot tourists.

Dieser rücksichtslose Straftäter hat Babies vergiftet.

This reckless offender poisoned babies.

Dieser teuflische Bombenleger hat Mitarbeiter getötet.

This evil bomb planter killed employees.

Diese selbstherrliche Bestie hat eine Nachbarin ertränkt.

This egomaniac beast drowned a neighbor.

Dieser verhasste Schwerverbrecher hat Mädchen umgebracht.

This detested felon killed girls.

Dieser unheilbare Gefangene hat Nachbarn niedergeschlagen.

This cureless captive defeated neighbors.

Dieser zwanghafte Serienmörder hat einen Freund erstochen.

This obsessive serial killer stabbed a friend.

Dieser widerliche Kinderschänder hat ein Mädchen gefoltert.

This disgusting child abuser tortured a girl.

Dieser scheußliche Gewalttäter hat einen Schüler erhängt.

This horrible criminal hanged a student.

Dieser verwahrloste Henker hat einen Jungen erstickt.

This shabby executioner choked a boy.

Dieser hässliche Menschenhändler hat Schüler entführt.

This ugly slave trader kidnapped students.

Dieses herablassende Biest hat eine Freundin stranguliert.

This patronizing beast strangled a friend.

Dieser entstellte Killer hat eine Schülerin niedergeschossen.

This blemished killer shot a student.

Dieser ekelhafte Kannibale hat Jungen niedergemetzelt.

This disgusting man-eater slaughtered boys.

Dieser ätzende Wiederholungstäter hat Freunde erdrosselt.

This awful recidivist strangled friends.

Neutral context – 30 descriptions

Dieser progressive Chemiker hat einen Impfstoff hergestellt.

This progressive chemist produced a vaccine.

Dieser objektive Biologe hat einen Nadelbaum untersucht.

This objective biologist investigated a coniferous tree.

Dieser zerstreute Geologe hat Gesteinsproben analysiert.

This absent-minded geologist analyzed rock samples.

Dieser sentimentale Archäologe hat Denkmäler ausgegraben.

This sentimental archeologist excavated monuments.

Dieser revolutionäre Astronom hat einen Stern entdeckt.

This revolutionary astronomer discovered a star.

Dieser heroische Facharzt hat Heilmethoden entwickelt.

This heroic specialist developed cures.

Dieser disziplinierte Optiker hat Sehstörungen erforscht.

This disciplined optician explored visual disorders.

Dieser verklärte Philosoph hat eine Theorie verworfen.

This misty-eyed philosopher rejected a theory.

Dieser zaghafte Psychologe hat Entspannung empfohlen.

This cautious psychologist recommends relaxation.

Dieser fromme Theologe hat ein Kirchenfest veranstaltet.

This pious theologian hosted a church festival.

Dieser verwegene Detektiv hat Beweismaterial überprüft.

This venturous detective reviewed evidence.

Dieser listige Bauleiter hat eine Genehmigung beantragt.

This artful construction supervisor requested a permit.

Dieser gönnerhafte Makler hat Wohnungen vermietet.

This patronizing real estate agent let apartments.

Dieser berechenbare Notar hat Urkunden beglaubigt.

This predictable solicitor authenticated the documents.

Dieser subjektive Redakteur hat Eilmeldungen gedruckt.

This subjective editor printed breaking news.

Dieser verschmitzte Buchhändler hat Zeitschriften verkauft.

This mischievous bookseller sold magazines.

Dieser selbstlose Tierpfleger hat ein Jungtier aufgezogen.

This altruistic zookeeper reared a young animal.

Dieser schweigsame Imker hat einen Bienenstock beobachtet.

This silent beekeeper watched a beehive.

Dieser impulsive Hausmeister hat eine Leitung kontrolliert.

This impulsive janitor checked the power line.

Dieser gefällige Briefträger hat Paketwaren geliefert.

This compliant postman delivered packages.

Dieser versonnene Gärtner hat eine Rosenart gezüchtet.

This pensive gardener grew a variety of roses.

Dieser häusliche Bäcker hat eine Teigmischung produziert.

This domestic baker produced a mix of dough.

Dieser eigenwillige Fleischer hat Schweinefilets geschnitten.

This headstrong butcher cut pork fillets.

Dieser bürgerliche Landwirt hat Süßkartoffeln geerntet.

This civil farmer picked sweet potatoes.

Dieser lautlose Dachdecker hat eine Solaranlage montiert.

This silent roofer installed a solar collector.

Dieser konventionelle Tischler hat Möbelstücke angefertigt.

This conventional carpenter manufactured furniture.

Dieser unverschuldete Schlosser hat ein Stahlgerüst aufgebaut.

This innocent locksmith constructed a steel framework.

Dieser rigorose Klempner hat Rohrabschnitte verlegt.

This rigorous plumber laid pipe sections.

Dieser bedenkenlose Mechaniker hat eine Ölheizung repariert.

This unhesitating mechanic repaired oil heating.

Dieser unerfahrene Elektriker hat eine Stromquelle installiert.

This inexperienced electrician installed a power source.

Published Online: 2017-5-13
Published in Print: 2017-5-24

© 2017 Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland

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