Abstract：The interactions between emotion and language has become a hot topic in psychological fields, emotional background plays an important role in word processing. External emotion clues including individuals’ emotional state, emotional tone/context, and affective picture and so on will have an influence on word processing. However, there is little study investigating the mechanism of the acquisition of words’ emotional information up to now. The present study aimed to explore whether neutral words in different emotional backgrounds can be given a certain kind of emotional meaning, such as become a negative word in negative emotional background, which in turn impact word processing, we also focus on whether there are difference between neutral concrete words and neutral abstract words on the process of emotion acquisition.
We used lexical force-choice paradigm to investigate the mechanism of the effect of emotional meaning on neutral word and the modulation effect of concreteness. 36 college students participated in this study and their average age is 20.35 ± 1.56. Experimental materials were neutral concrete words, neutral abstract words and different types of affective pictures, including positive and negative pictures (selected from International Affective Picture System). Firstly, we choose 10 participants who did not engage in the final experiment to evaluate 400 words from The modern Chinese vocabulary dictionary based on their concreteness and emotionality, according to their assessment, we choose 100 neutral concrete words and 100 neutral abstract words as the experimental materials. The final experiment was divided into two stages: emotion learning stage and word preference rating stage. In the emotion learning stage, subjects were asked to choose one word to match with the picture’s emotion meaning from the two, which were displayed under an emotional picture. Subsequently, a 2 minutes distraction task was implemented to prevent memory effect. In the word preference rating stage, participants needed to evaluate the preference on a Likert 9-point scale (1 meant extremely not liking and 9 meant extremely liking) to the words that had displayed in previous stage. We conducted a 2 (words: neutral concrete words, neutral abstract words) × 2 (emotion: positive, negative) × 2 (category of choices: selected, non-selected) experimental design, the dependent variable is the scores of word’s degree of liking. The results showed that (1) the scores of the degree of liking were significantly different between selected words and non-selected words. For neutral concrete words, the words were chosen under positive pictures were rated higher in the scores of the degree of liking than those were selected under negative pictures. For neutral abstract words, however, there was no such effect. (2) the selected words were rated higher in the scores of the degree of liking than which were not selected when paired with positive pictures, there is no difference when paired with negative pictures. The results suggest that concrete words are more easily to obtain corresponding emotional meaning compare to abstract words, and positive emotion is more easily to be learned versus negative emotion.
Taken together, neutral words obtained corresponding emotion in different emotion backgrounds when they were selected in the force-choice task, the establishment of words and emotion backgrounds’ arbitrary connection is the mechanism of emotional information acquisition. Concreteness modulates the acquisition and processing of words’ emotional information.