Variety in emotional life: within-category typicality of emotional experiences is associated with neural activity in large-scale brain networks

Wilson-Mendenhall, C. D., Barrett, L. F. and Barsalou, L.W. (2015) Variety in emotional life: within-category typicality of emotional experiences is associated with neural activity in large-scale brain networks. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(1), pp. 62-71. (doi:10.1093/scan/nsu037) (PMID:24563528)

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Abstract

The tremendous variability within categories of human emotional experience receives little empirical attention. We hypothesized that atypical instances of emotion categories (e.g. pleasant fear of thrill-seeking) would be processed less efficiently than typical instances of emotion categories (e.g. unpleasant fear of violent threat) in large-scale brain networks. During a novel fMRI paradigm, participants immersed themselves in scenarios designed to induce atypical and typical experiences of fear, sadness or happiness (scenario immersion), and then focused on and rated the pleasant or unpleasant feeling that emerged (valence focus) in most trials. As predicted, reliably greater activity in the ‘default mode’ network (including medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate) was observed for atypical (vs typical) emotional experiences during scenario immersion, suggesting atypical instances require greater conceptual processing to situate the socio-emotional experience. During valence focus, reliably greater activity was observed for atypical (vs typical) emotional experiences in the ‘salience’ network (including anterior insula and anterior cingulate), suggesting atypical instances place greater demands on integrating shifting body signals with the sensory and social context. Consistent with emerging psychological construction approaches to emotion, these findings demonstrate that is it important to study the variability within common categories of emotional experience.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barsalou, Professor Lawrence
Authors: Wilson-Mendenhall, C. D., Barrett, L. F., and Barsalou, L.W.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1749-5016
ISSN (Online):1749-5024

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