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Independence of valence and reward in emotional word processing: Electrophysiological evidence

Kaltwasser, L., Ries, S., Sommer, W., Knight, R., & Willems, R. M. (2013). Independence of valence and reward in emotional word processing: Electrophysiological evidence. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 168. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00168.
Both emotion and reward are primary modulators of cognition: Emotional word content enhances word processing, and reward expectancy similarly amplifies cognitive processing from the perceptual up to the executive control level. Here, we investigate how these primary regulators of cognition interact. We studied how the anticipation of gain or loss modulates the neural time course (event-related potentials, ERPs) related to processing of emotional words. Participants performed a semantic categorization task on emotional and neutral words, which were preceded by a cue indicating that performance could lead to monetary gain or loss. Emotion-related and reward-related effects occurred in different time windows, did not interact statistically, and showed different topographies. This speaks for an independence of reward expectancy and the processing of emotional word content. Therefore, privileged processing given to emotionally valenced words seems immune to short-term modulation of reward. Models of language comprehension should be able to incorporate effects of reward and emotion on language processing, and the current study argues for an architecture in which reward and emotion do not share a common neurobiological mechanism
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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