The emotion potential of words and passages in reading Harry Potter:an fMRI study

Hsu, Chun-ting and Jacobs, Arthur M. and Citron, Francesca M. M. and Conrad, Markus (2015) The emotion potential of words and passages in reading Harry Potter:an fMRI study. Brain and Language, 142. pp. 96-114. ISSN 0093-934X

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Previous studies suggested that the emotional connotation of single words automatically recruits attention. We investigated the potential of words to induce emotional engagement when reading texts. In an fMRI experiment, we presented 120 text passages from the Harry Potter book series. Results showed significant correlations between affective word (lexical) ratings and passage ratings. Furthermore, affective lexical ratings correlated with activity in regions associated with emotion, situation model building, multi-modal semantic integration, and Theory of Mind. We distinguished differential influences of affective lexical, inter-lexical, and supra-lexical variables: differential effects of lexical valence were significant in the left amygdala, while effects of arousal-span (the dynamic range of arousal across a passage) were significant in the left amygdala and insula. However, we found no differential effect of passage ratings in emotion-associated regions. Our results support the hypothesis that the emotion potential of short texts can be predicted by lexical and inter-lexical affective variables.

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Journal Article
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Brain and Language
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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Brain and Language. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Brain and Language, 142, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2015.01.011
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Deposited On:
27 Feb 2015 13:12
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 01:36