Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 154–164 | Cite as

Concurrent emotional response and semantic unification: An event-related potential study

  • Yang Cao
  • Yufang Yang
  • Lin WangEmail author


Using event-related potentials, in this study we examined how implied emotion is derived from sentences. In the same sentential context, different emotionally neutral words rendered the whole sentence emotionally neutral and semantically congruent, emotionally negative and semantically congruent, or emotionally neutral and semantically incongruent. Relative to the words in the neutral-congruent condition, the words in the neutral-incongruent condition elicited a larger N400, indicating increased semantic processing, whereas the words in the negative-congruent condition elicited a long-lasting positivity between 300 and 1,000 ms, indicating an emotional response. The overlapping time windows of semantic processing and the emotional response suggest that the construction of emotional meaning operates concurrently with semantic unification. The results indicate that the implied emotional processing of sentences may be a result of unification operations but does not necessarily involve causal appraisal of a sentence’s mental representation.


Emotion Unification N400 Language 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of PsychologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyTufts UniversityMassachusettsUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolCharlestownUSA

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