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Recognizing the emotional valence of names: An ERP study

Wang, L., Zhu, Z., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Hagoort, P., & Yang, Y. (2013). Recognizing the emotional valence of names: An ERP study. Brain and Language, 125, 118-127. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2013.01.006.
Unlike common nouns, person names refer to unique entities and generally have a referring function. We used event-related potentials to investigate the time course of identifying the emotional meaning of nouns and names. The emotional valence of names and nouns were manipulated separately. The results show early N1 effects in response to emotional valence only for nouns. This might reflect automatic attention directed towards emotional stimuli. The absence of such an effect for names supports the notion that the emotional meaning carried by names is accessed after word recognition and person identification. In addition, both names with negative valence and emotional nouns elicited late positive effects, which have been associated with evaluation of emotional significance. This positive effect started earlier for nouns than for names, but with similar durations. Our results suggest that distinct neural systems are involved in the retrieval of names’ and nouns’ emotional meaning.
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