When prediction is fulfilled: Insight from emotion processing

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Abstract

Research on prediction in language processing has focused predominantly on the function of predictive context and less on the potential contribution of the predicted word. The present study investigated how meaning that is not immediately prominent in the contents of predictions but is part of the predicted words influences sentence processing. We used emotional meaning to address this question. Participants read emotional and neutral words embedded in highly predictive and non-predictive sentential contexts, with the two sentential contexts rated similarly for their emotional ratings. Event Related Potential (ERP) effects of prediction and emotion both started at ˜200 ms. Confirmed predictions elicited larger P200s than violated predictions when the target words were non-emotional (neutral), but such an effect was absent when the target words were emotional. Likewise, emotional words elicited larger P200s than neutral words when the target words were non-predictive, but such effect were absent when the contexts were predictive. We conjecture that the prediction and emotion effects at ˜200 ms may share similar neural process(es). We suggest that such process(es) could be affective, where confirmed predictions and word emotion give rise to ‘aha’ or rewarding feelings, and/or cognitive, where both prediction and word emotion quickly engage attention.

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