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Journal Article

Reading a suspenseful literary text activates brain areas related to social cognition and predictive inference

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Menninghaus,  Winfried
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Cluster "Languages of Emotion", Freie Universität Berlin;

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Citation

Lehne, M., Engel, P., Rohrmeier, M., Menninghaus, W., Jacobs, A. M., & Koelsch, S. (2015). Reading a suspenseful literary text activates brain areas related to social cognition and predictive inference. PLoS One, 10(5). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124550.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0026-C904-B
Abstract
Stories can elicit powerful emotions. A key emotional response to narrative plots (e.g., novels, movies, etc.) is suspense. Suspense appears to build on basic aspects of human cognition such as processes of expectation, anticipation, and prediction. However, the neural processes underlying emotional experiences of suspense have not been previously investigated. We acquired functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data while participants read a suspenseful literary text (E.T.A. Hoffmann's “The Sandman”) subdivided into short text passages. Individual ratings of experienced suspense obtained after each text passage were found to be related to activation in the medial frontal cortex, bilateral frontal regions (along the inferior frontal sulcus), lateral premotor cortex, as well as posterior temporal and temporo-parietal areas. The results indicate that the emotional experience of suspense depends on brain areas associated with social cognition and predictive inference.