Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 389–397 | Cite as

Affective processing within 1/10th of a second: High arousal is necessary for early facilitative processing of negative but not positive words

  • Markus J. Hofmann
  • Lars Kuchinke
  • Sascha Tamm
  • Melissa L. H. Võ
  • Arthur M. Jacobs


Lexical decisions to high- and low-arousal negative words and to low-arousal neutral and positive words were examined in an event-related potentials (ERP) study. Reaction times to positive and high-arousal negative words were shorter than those to neutral (low-arousal) words, whereas those to low-arousal negative words were longer. A similar pattern was observed in an early time window of the ERP response: Both positive and high-arousal negative words elicited greater negative potentials in a time frame of 80 to 120 msec after stimulus onset. This result suggests that arousal has a differential impact on early lexical processing of positive and negative words. Source localization in the relevant time frame revealed that the arousal effect in negative words is likely to be localized in a left occipito-temporal region including the middle temporal and fusiform gyri. The ERP arousal effect appears to result from early lexico-semantic processing in high-arousal negative words.


Lexical Decision Lexical Access Neutral Word Emotional Word Negative Word 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus J. Hofmann
    • 1
  • Lars Kuchinke
    • 1
  • Sascha Tamm
    • 1
  • Melissa L. H. Võ
    • 2
  • Arthur M. Jacobs
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFree University BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.University of EdinburghEdinburghScotland

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