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Journal Article

Affect as Anaesthetic: how emotional contexts modulate the processing of counterintuitive concepts


Knoop,  Christine A.
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;


Enge,  Alexander
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin;
Max Planck Research Group Learning in Early Childhood, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Aristei, S., Knoop, C. A., Lubrich, O., Nehrlich, T., Enge, A., Stark, K., et al. (2022). Affect as Anaesthetic: how emotional contexts modulate the processing of counterintuitive concepts. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. doi:10.1080/23273798.2022.2085312.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-A410-A
In popular narratives, minimally counterintuitive concepts (MCIs), which violate one category of our real-world knowledge (e.g. talking trees), are frequently embedded in emotional contexts. To assess the impact of emotion on MCI processing, we presented micro-narratives with
negative or neutral contents before target sentences. We compared electrophysiological correlates of semantic processing elicited by MCIs, common semantic expectancy violations, and intuitive concepts, presented as critical within-sentence words and as images after the
sentences. Results show that emotional contexts play a critical role for MCI processing. N400 effects in neural responses to MCIs that we observed after neutral contexts were not found after negative contexts, suggesting that the synergy between emotional context and MCI saliency
enhances the processing of narratives at the cost of critical semantic processing. This finding is relevant for neurocognitive models of language comprehension in high-level contexts, for our understanding of the attraction of counterintuitive concepts and rhetorical strategies.