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Journal Article

Laughter catches attention!


Kotz,  Sonja A.
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology, Maastricht University, the Netherlands;

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Pinheiro, A. P., Barros, C., Dias, M., & Kotz, S. A. (2017). Laughter catches attention! Biological Psychology, 130, 11-21. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.09.012.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002E-1292-0
In social interactions, emotionally salient and sudden changes in vocal expressions attract attention. However, only a few studies examined how emotion and attention interact in voice processing. We investigated neutral, happy (laughs) and angry (growls) vocalizations in a modified oddball task. Participants silently counted the targets in each block and rated the valence and arousal of the vocalizations. A combined event-related potential and time-frequency analysis focused on the P3 and pre-stimulus alpha power to capture attention effects in response to unexpected events. Whereas an early differentiation between emotionally salient and neutral vocalizations was reflected in the P3a response, the P3b was selectively enhanced for happy voices. The P3b modulation was predicted by pre-stimulus frontal alpha desynchronization, and by the perceived pleasantness of the targets. These findings indicate that vocal emotions may be differently processed based on task relevance and valence. Increased anticipation and attention to positive vocal cues (laughter) may reflect their high social relevance.