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From Memory to Attitude: The Neurocognitive Process beyond Euthanasia Acceptance.

Enke M, Meyer P, Flor H - PLoS ONE (2016)

Bottom Line: Numerous questionnaire studies on attitudes towards euthanasia produced conflicting results, precluding any general conclusion.Reaction time data showed neither positive nor negative associations towards euthanasia.ERP analyses revealed an N400 priming effect with lower mean amplitudes when euthanasia was associated with negative words.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Numerous questionnaire studies on attitudes towards euthanasia produced conflicting results, precluding any general conclusion. This might be due to the fact that human behavior can be influenced by automatically triggered attitudes, which represent ingrained associations in memory and cannot be assessed by standard questionnaires, but require indirect measures such as reaction times (RT) or electroencephalographic recording (EEG). Event related potentials (ERPs) of the EEG and RT during an affective priming task were assessed to investigate the impact of automatically triggered attitudes and were compared to results of an explicit questionnaire. Explicit attitudes were ambivalent. Reaction time data showed neither positive nor negative associations towards euthanasia. ERP analyses revealed an N400 priming effect with lower mean amplitudes when euthanasia was associated with negative words. The euthanasia-related modulation of the N400 component shows an integration of the euthanasia object in negatively valenced associative neural networks. The integration of all measures suggests a bottom-up process of attitude activation, where automatically triggered negative euthanasia-relevant associations can become more ambiguous with increasing time in order to regulate the bias arising from automatic processes. These data suggest that implicit measures may make an important contribution to the understanding of euthanasia-related attitudes.

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Integration of all measures.
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pone.0153910.g004: Integration of all measures.

Mentions: The integration of all measures suggests a bottom-up process of attitude activation, where automatically triggered negative euthanasia-relevant associations in memory are activated and become more ambiguous with increasing time to control or correct this arising process due to top-down regulations (Fig 4). We assume that an explicit statement reflects the end product of evaluations, which are automatically activated and are based on ingrained associations in memory, which efficiently align individuals with their environment (to favor or oppose sth.) without need for conscious considerations (see [76]). However, we furthermore assume that automatic evaluations of euthanasia are controlled by the prevailing ethical discussions and social norms, as well as the terms of social desirability. Therefore bottom-up and top-down processes are both used to evaluate the complexity of the attitude object (see also [24, 49]) but might work in a constraining manner (see [37]). This results in ambivalent measures due to increased regulatory capacity over time. Further research in controversial attitude objects should consider implicit measures as an indispensable tool in addition to behavioral measures and the temporal placement of their measures within the dynamic neurocognitive process of attitude activation.


From Memory to Attitude: The Neurocognitive Process beyond Euthanasia Acceptance.

Enke M, Meyer P, Flor H - PLoS ONE (2016)

Integration of all measures.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4835050&req=5

pone.0153910.g004: Integration of all measures.
Mentions: The integration of all measures suggests a bottom-up process of attitude activation, where automatically triggered negative euthanasia-relevant associations in memory are activated and become more ambiguous with increasing time to control or correct this arising process due to top-down regulations (Fig 4). We assume that an explicit statement reflects the end product of evaluations, which are automatically activated and are based on ingrained associations in memory, which efficiently align individuals with their environment (to favor or oppose sth.) without need for conscious considerations (see [76]). However, we furthermore assume that automatic evaluations of euthanasia are controlled by the prevailing ethical discussions and social norms, as well as the terms of social desirability. Therefore bottom-up and top-down processes are both used to evaluate the complexity of the attitude object (see also [24, 49]) but might work in a constraining manner (see [37]). This results in ambivalent measures due to increased regulatory capacity over time. Further research in controversial attitude objects should consider implicit measures as an indispensable tool in addition to behavioral measures and the temporal placement of their measures within the dynamic neurocognitive process of attitude activation.

Bottom Line: Numerous questionnaire studies on attitudes towards euthanasia produced conflicting results, precluding any general conclusion.Reaction time data showed neither positive nor negative associations towards euthanasia.ERP analyses revealed an N400 priming effect with lower mean amplitudes when euthanasia was associated with negative words.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Numerous questionnaire studies on attitudes towards euthanasia produced conflicting results, precluding any general conclusion. This might be due to the fact that human behavior can be influenced by automatically triggered attitudes, which represent ingrained associations in memory and cannot be assessed by standard questionnaires, but require indirect measures such as reaction times (RT) or electroencephalographic recording (EEG). Event related potentials (ERPs) of the EEG and RT during an affective priming task were assessed to investigate the impact of automatically triggered attitudes and were compared to results of an explicit questionnaire. Explicit attitudes were ambivalent. Reaction time data showed neither positive nor negative associations towards euthanasia. ERP analyses revealed an N400 priming effect with lower mean amplitudes when euthanasia was associated with negative words. The euthanasia-related modulation of the N400 component shows an integration of the euthanasia object in negatively valenced associative neural networks. The integration of all measures suggests a bottom-up process of attitude activation, where automatically triggered negative euthanasia-relevant associations can become more ambiguous with increasing time in order to regulate the bias arising from automatic processes. These data suggest that implicit measures may make an important contribution to the understanding of euthanasia-related attitudes.

Show MeSH