Differentiating emotion-label words and emotion-laden words in emotion conflict: an ERP study

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Despite recent increased attention to emotion conflict, little is known about whether emotion-label words (e.g., sadness, happiness) and emotion-laden words (e.g., death, birthday) function similarly in emotion conflict (i.e., a conflict between the target and distractor in emotion involvement), because the majority of the previous studies implicitly mixed the two. The present study aimed to compare emotion-label words and emotion-laden words in emotion conflict using a flanker task. Specifically, participants (N = 21) were asked to judge the valence of the target words that were vertically surrounded by the words with same (congruent) or different (incongruent) valence as being negative or positive. The behavioral results suggested that negative emotion-laden words were processed faster and more accurately than negative emotion-label words. ERP data further showed that negative emotion-label words elicited larger N200 than negative emotion-laden words on the left hemisphere, while such a difference was found for positive words on the right hemisphere. Moreover, emotion-laden words elicited smaller N200 in the incongruent condition than in the congruent condition, whereas no such a distinction was observed for emotion-label words. The findings suggest different cognitive and neural correlates of emotion-label words and emotion-laden words in emotion conflict.

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This study was supported by research Grants MYRG2017-00217-FED, MYRG2016-00193-FED, and MYRG2015-00221-FED Grants from the University of Macau. The authors would thank Kai Chen for his assistance on programming and data collection.

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Correspondence to Chenggang Wu.

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Zhang, J., Wu, C., Yuan, Z. et al. Differentiating emotion-label words and emotion-laden words in emotion conflict: an ERP study. Exp Brain Res 237, 2423–2430 (2019).

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  • Emotion conflict
  • Emotion-label words
  • Emotion-laden words
  • N200