Several lines of evidence point to the fact that perception of social constructs can be influenced by language. However, the effect that emotion words might play on emotional perception has, until recently, received little attention in social psychology. Previous research in Dr. Barrett's laboratory has shown that when emotion words when satiated interrupt emotion perception judgments. It is unknown, however, the scope of word's impact on emotion perception: Is conscious awareness of words required to alter emotion perception? In addition, the mechanisms by which words influence emotion perception are unknown: Do words need to be used as part of the judgment in order for words to have an effect? Thus, the goal of the proposed research is two-fold. First, the scope of words'impact on emotion perception will be assessed.
Specific aim #1 is to test whether EXPLICIT access to emotion words (using a supraliminally presented prime) influences emotion perception.
Specific aim #2 is to test whether IMPLICIT access to emotion words (using a subliminally presented prime) influences emotion perception. Second, the mechanism by which words affect emotion perception will be assessed through four experimental tasks, each decreasingly dependent on the use of words to arrive at a judgment: category naming, concept matching, perceptual matching, and binocular rivalry. Perhaps words exert their strongest influence on emotion perception only when verbal labels are produced (category naming task). Perhaps words influence emotion perception when labels are not overtly produced but are still needed (conceptual matching task). Perhaps words influence emotion perception when labels are neither produced or needed (perceptual matching task). And, perhaps more intriguingly, words might influence emotion perception by affecting the selection of information presented for consciousness (binocular rivalry task). Understanding how emotion words affect emotion perception is necessary for a basic knowledge of how people perceive emotions in other individuals. Understanding how words influence emotion perception might lead to more effective behavioral and cognitive therapies that emphasize language as a tool for changing dysfunctional emotional processing. In addition, this research will lay the foundation for a host of future experiments that further investigate the neurobiology of emotion perception.
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