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ERIC Number: EJ991437
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-May
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Emotion Words Affect Eye Fixations during Reading
Scott, Graham G.; O'Donnell, Patrick J.; Sereno, Sara C.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v38 n3 p783-792 May 2012
Emotion words are generally characterized as possessing high arousal and extreme valence and have typically been investigated in paradigms in which they are presented and measured as single words. This study examined whether a word's emotional qualities influenced the time spent viewing that word in the context of normal reading. Eye movements were monitored as participants read sentences containing an emotionally positive (e.g., "lucky"), negative (e.g., "angry"), or neutral (e.g., "plain") word. Target word frequency (high or low) was additionally varied to help determine the temporal locus of emotion effects, with interactive results suggesting an early lexical locus of emotion processing. In general, measures of target fixation time demonstrated significant effects of emotion and frequency as well as an interaction. The interaction arose from differential effects with negative words that were dependent on word frequency. Fixation times on emotion words (positive or negative) were consistently faster than those on neutral words with one exception--high-frequency negative words were read no faster than their neutral counterparts. These effects emerged in the earliest eye movement measures, namely, first and single fixation duration, suggesting that emotionality, as defined by arousal and valence, modulates lexical processing. Possible mechanisms involved in processing emotion words are discussed, including automatic vigilance and desensitization, both of which imply a key role for word frequency. Finally, it is important that early lexical effects of emotion processing can be established within the ecologically valid context of fluent reading. (Contains 4 tables, 1 figure, and 1 footnote.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (Scotland)