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Brain Res. 2013 Nov 13;1538:61-72. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.09.021. Epub 2013 Sep 27.

Electrophysiological evidence for emotional valence and competitive arousal effects on insight problem solving.

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  • 1Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China; Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (SWU), Ministry of Education, China.


Accumulating evidence suggests that insight can be substantially influenced by task-irrelevant emotion stimuli and interpersonal competitive situation, and a close link might exist between them. Using a learning-testing paradigm and Event-Related Potentials (ERPs), the present study investigated the independent and joint effects of emotional and competitive information on insight problem solving especially their neural mechanisms. Subjects situated in either competitive or non-competitive condition learned heuristic logogriphs first and then viewed task-irrelevant positive or negative emotional pictures, which were followed by test logogriphs to solve. Both behavioral and ERP findings showed a more evident insight boost following negative emotional pictures in competitive context. Results demonstrated that negative emotion and competitive situation might promote insight by a defocused mode of attention (as indicated by N1 and P2), the enhanced semantic integration and breaking mental set (as indicated by N450), and the increased forming of novel associations activated by motivational arousal originating from competition (as indicated by P800-1600 and P1600-2500). These results indicate that the dynamic interactions between emotional valence and competitive arousal effects on insight.

© 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Competition condition; Emotional valence; Event-Related Potentials (ERPs); Insight problem solving

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