Making sense of social interaction: Emotional coherence drives semantic integration as assessed by event-related potentials
von Scheve, Christian
Barber, Horacio A.
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Gesche Schauenburg, Markus Conrad, Christian von Scheve, Horacio A. Barber, Jens Ambrasat, Arash Aryani, Tobias Schröder, Making sense of social interaction: Emotional coherence drives semantic integration as assessed by event-related potentials, Neuropsychologia, Volume 125, 2019, Pages 1-13, ISSN 0028-3932, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2019.01.002.
We compared event-related potentials during sentence reading, using impression formation equations of a model of affective coherence, to investigate the role of affective content processing during meaning making. The model of Affect Control Theory (ACT; Heise, 1979, 2007) predicts and quantifies the degree to which social interactions deflect from prevailing social norms and values – based on the affective meanings of involved concepts. We tested whether this model can predict the amplitude of brain waves traditionally associated with semantic processing. To this end, we visually presented sentences describing basic subject-verb-object social interactions and measured event-related potentials for final words of sentences from three different conditions of affective deflection (low, medium, high) as computed by a variant of the ACT model (Schröder, 2011). Sentence stimuli were closely controlled across conditions for alternate semantic dimensions such as contextual constraints, cloze probabilities, co-occurrences of subject-object and verb-object relations. Personality characteristics (schizotypy, Big Five) were assessed to account for individual differences, assumed to influence emotion-language interactions in information processing. Affective deflection provoked increased negativity of ERP waves during the P2/N2 and N400 components. Our data suggest that affective incoherence is perceived as conflicting information interfering with early semantic processing and that increased respective processing demands – in particular in the case of medium violations of social norms – linger on until the N400 time window classically associated with the integration of concepts into embedding context. We conclude from these results that affective meanings influence basic stages of meaning making.