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Can emotional facial expressions influence spoken language processing?

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Poster B43 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Miguel Rubianes1,2, Linda Drijvers3,4, Laura Jiménez-Ortega1,2, Francisco Muñoz1,2, Tatiana Almeida-Rivera1,2, José Sánchez-García1, Sabela Fondevila1,2, Pilar Casado1,2, Manuel Martín-Loeches1,2; 1Complutense University of Madrid, 2Cognitive Neuroscience Section, UCM-ISCIII Center for Human Evolution and Behavior, 3Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, 4Donders Institute for Cognition, Brain and Behaviour

A growing body of research is showing that the speaker's emotional information may modulate real-time language comprehension. However, it is still debated whether this effect takes place during the early or the later stages of language processing. To this end, this study used a subliminal paradigm to investigate the interplay between emotional facial expressions and language comprehension. Thirty-six participants listened to sentences that could contain morphosyntactic anomalies while viewing a scrambled face. Prior to the target word, emotional facial expressions (happy, neutral, or angry) were presented for 16 milliseconds embedded within the scrambled face. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were analyzed using non-parametric statistics and cluster-based permutation tests. Analysis for language-related components revealed both LAN and P600 effects in the presence of all emotional expressions. Yet, a larger Left Anterior Negativity (LAN) effect was found for angry faces compared to neutral and happy faces, indicating that angry expressions may bias first-pass syntactic parsing. Subsequently, a reduced P600 effect was found only for angry faces as compared to neutral faces. Collectively, these findings support the view that emotion-laden information is rapidly decoded from facial cues and seems to impact linguistic comprehension at both early and later stages, particularly when facial cues are conveyed by a negative valence.

Topic Areas: Syntax and Combinatorial Semantics, Control, Selection, and Executive Processes

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