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Emotional picture and word processing: an FMRI study on effects of stimulus complexity.

Schlochtermeier LH, Kuchinke L, Pehrs C, Urton K, Kappelhoff H, Jacobs AM - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli.In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words.Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Cluster of Excellence Languages of Emotion, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany. l.schlochtermeier@fu-berlin.de

ABSTRACT
Neuroscientific investigations regarding aspects of emotional experiences usually focus on one stimulus modality (e.g., pictorial or verbal). Similarities and differences in the processing between the different modalities have rarely been studied directly. The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli. In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words. We first developed a new stimulus database comprising valence and arousal ratings for more than 200 concrete objects representable in different modalities including different levels of complexity: words, phrases, pictograms, and photographs. Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal. No superiority for the pictorial stimuli was found in terms of emotional information processing with differences between modalities being revealed mainly in perceptual processing regions. While visual complexity might partly account for previously found differences in emotional stimulus processing, the main existing processing differences are probably due to enhanced processing in modality specific perceptual regions. We would suggest that both pictures and words elicit emotional responses with no general superiority for either stimulus modality, while emotional responses to pictures are modulated by perceptual stimulus features, such as picture complexity.

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Experimental design with examples of stimuli (photos, pictograms, phrases and words; Schnecke = Snail; die weiße Blume = the white flower; Schmetterling = Butterfly; das braune Kamel = the brown camel).
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pone-0055619-g001: Experimental design with examples of stimuli (photos, pictograms, phrases and words; Schnecke = Snail; die weiße Blume = the white flower; Schmetterling = Butterfly; das braune Kamel = the brown camel).

Mentions: Stimuli were presented in the scanning session using goggles with Presentation 12.1 software (Neurobehavioral Systems Inc.) in randomized order, pictograms and photos in 300×300 pixel resolution, placed in the middle of the screen, verbal stimuli using font type “Arial”, size 40, both black on a blank white screen. Each trial (see Figure 1) began with the stimulus that lasted for 2000 ms on its own, followed by a fixation cross (+) presented for 500 ms and then followed by a valence judgment task, consisting of a 7 stepped rating scale lasting for 3500 ms, ranging from −3 (very negative) via 0 (neutral) to +3 (very positive). This was then followed by a fixation cross and a randomly jittered inter-trial interval (average 2500 ms), used to sample the hemodynamic response at different time points (trial duration = 8500 ms – 11500 ms). Participants viewed 84 stimuli in each stimulus type, with 40 positive, 40 neutral and 4 negative filler items per stimulus type, presented in two runs with four blocks each in randomized order, so that the whole experiment lasted 47 minutes.


Emotional picture and word processing: an FMRI study on effects of stimulus complexity.

Schlochtermeier LH, Kuchinke L, Pehrs C, Urton K, Kappelhoff H, Jacobs AM - PLoS ONE (2013)

Experimental design with examples of stimuli (photos, pictograms, phrases and words; Schnecke = Snail; die weiße Blume = the white flower; Schmetterling = Butterfly; das braune Kamel = the brown camel).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3569458&req=5

pone-0055619-g001: Experimental design with examples of stimuli (photos, pictograms, phrases and words; Schnecke = Snail; die weiße Blume = the white flower; Schmetterling = Butterfly; das braune Kamel = the brown camel).
Mentions: Stimuli were presented in the scanning session using goggles with Presentation 12.1 software (Neurobehavioral Systems Inc.) in randomized order, pictograms and photos in 300×300 pixel resolution, placed in the middle of the screen, verbal stimuli using font type “Arial”, size 40, both black on a blank white screen. Each trial (see Figure 1) began with the stimulus that lasted for 2000 ms on its own, followed by a fixation cross (+) presented for 500 ms and then followed by a valence judgment task, consisting of a 7 stepped rating scale lasting for 3500 ms, ranging from −3 (very negative) via 0 (neutral) to +3 (very positive). This was then followed by a fixation cross and a randomly jittered inter-trial interval (average 2500 ms), used to sample the hemodynamic response at different time points (trial duration = 8500 ms – 11500 ms). Participants viewed 84 stimuli in each stimulus type, with 40 positive, 40 neutral and 4 negative filler items per stimulus type, presented in two runs with four blocks each in randomized order, so that the whole experiment lasted 47 minutes.

Bottom Line: The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli.In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words.Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Cluster of Excellence Languages of Emotion, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany. l.schlochtermeier@fu-berlin.de

ABSTRACT
Neuroscientific investigations regarding aspects of emotional experiences usually focus on one stimulus modality (e.g., pictorial or verbal). Similarities and differences in the processing between the different modalities have rarely been studied directly. The comparison of verbal and pictorial emotional stimuli often reveals a processing advantage of emotional pictures in terms of larger or more pronounced emotion effects evoked by pictorial stimuli. In this study, we examined whether this picture advantage refers to general processing differences or whether it might partly be attributed to differences in visual complexity between pictures and words. We first developed a new stimulus database comprising valence and arousal ratings for more than 200 concrete objects representable in different modalities including different levels of complexity: words, phrases, pictograms, and photographs. Using fMRI we then studied the neural correlates of the processing of these emotional stimuli in a valence judgment task, in which the stimulus material was controlled for differences in emotional arousal. No superiority for the pictorial stimuli was found in terms of emotional information processing with differences between modalities being revealed mainly in perceptual processing regions. While visual complexity might partly account for previously found differences in emotional stimulus processing, the main existing processing differences are probably due to enhanced processing in modality specific perceptual regions. We would suggest that both pictures and words elicit emotional responses with no general superiority for either stimulus modality, while emotional responses to pictures are modulated by perceptual stimulus features, such as picture complexity.

Show MeSH