Differential emotional processing in concrete and abstract words

Yao, B., Keitel, A. , Bruce, G., Scott, G. G., O'Donnell, P. J. and Sereno, S. C. (2018) Differential emotional processing in concrete and abstract words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(7), pp. 1064-1074. (doi: 10.1037/xlm0000464) (PMID:29431458)

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Emotion (positive and negative) words are typically recognized faster than neutral words. Recent research suggests that emotional valence, while often treated as a unitary semantic property, may be differentially represented in concrete and abstract words. Studies that have explicitly examined the interaction of emotion and concreteness, however, have demonstrated inconsistent patterns of results. Moreover, these findings may be limited as certain key lexical variables (e.g., familiarity, age of acquisition) were not taken into account. We investigated the emotion-concreteness interaction in a large-scale, highly controlled lexical decision experiment. A 3 (Emotion: negative, neutral, positive) × 2 (Concreteness: abstract, concrete) design was used, with 45 items per condition and 127 participants. We found a significant interaction between emotion and concreteness. Although positive and negative valenced words were recognized faster than neutral words, this emotion advantage was significantly larger in concrete than in abstract words. We explored potential contributions of participant alexithymia level and item imageability to this interactive pattern. We found that only word imageability significantly modulated the emotion-concreteness interaction. While both concrete and abstract emotion words are advantageously processed relative to comparable neutral words, the mechanisms of this facilitation are paradoxically more dependent on imageability in abstract words.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was supported by a Carnegie Collaborative Research Grant (Trust Reference No. 50084) from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland awarded to SCS, GGS, GB, and PJO.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Sereno, Dr Sara and Yao, Mr Bo and O'Donnell, Professor Patrick and Bruce, Ms Gillian and Keitel, Dr Anne and Scott, Mr Graham
Authors: Yao, B., Keitel, A., Bruce, G., Scott, G. G., O'Donnell, P. J., and Sereno, S. C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN (Online):1939-1285
Published Online:12 February 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 American Psychological Association
First Published:First published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 44(7):1064-1074
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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