, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 372-385

Processing the emotions in words: The complementary contributions of the left and right hemispheres


A dual-process model is suggested for the processing of words with emotional meaning in the cerebral hemispheres. While the right hemisphere and valence hypotheses have long been used to explain the results of research on emotional stimulus processing, including nonverbal and verbal stimuli, data on emotional word processing are mostly inconsistent with both hypotheses. Three complementary lines of research data from behavioral, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging studies seem to suggest that both hemispheres have access to the meanings of emotional words, although their time course of activation may be different. The left hemisphere activates these words automatically early in processing, whereas the right hemisphere gains access to emotional words slowly when attention is recruited by the meaning of these words in a controlled manner. This processing dichotomy probably corroborates the complementary roles the two hemispheres play in data processing.