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Brain Cogn. 2009 Apr;69(3):538-50. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2008.11.005. Epub 2008 Dec 20.

Emotions in word and face processing: early and late cortical responses.

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Department of Psychology, Humboldt-University at Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 18, D-12489 Berlin, Germany.


Recent research suggests that emotion effects in word processing resemble those in other stimulus domains such as pictures or faces. The present study aims to provide more direct evidence for this notion by comparing emotion effects in word and face processing in a within-subject design. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded as participants made decisions on the lexicality of emotionally positive, negative, and neutral German verbs or pseudowords, and on the integrity of intact happy, angry, and neutral faces or slightly distorted faces. Relative to neutral and negative stimuli both positive verbs and happy faces elicited posterior ERP negativities that were indistinguishable in scalp distribution and resembled the early posterior negativities reported by others. Importantly, these ERP modulations appeared at very different latencies. Therefore, it appears that similar brain systems reflect the decoding of both biological and symbolic emotional signals of positive valence, differing mainly in the speed of meaning access, which is more direct and faster for facial expressions than for words.

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