Emotional Semantic Congruency based on stimulus driven comparative judgements


A common cognitive process in everyday life consists in the comparative judgements of emotions given a pair of facial expressions and the choice of the most positive/negative among them. Results from three experiments on complete-facial expressions (happy/angry) and mixed-facial expressions (neutral/happy-or-angry) pairs viewed with (Experiment 1 and 3) or without (Experiment 2) foveation and performed in conditions in which valence was either task relevant (Experiment 1 and 2) or task irrelevant (Experiment 3), show that comparative judgements of emotions are stimulus driven. Judgements' speed increased as the target absolute emotion intensity grew larger together with the average emotion of the pair, irrespective of the compatibility between the valence and the side of motor response: a semantic congruency effect in the domain of emotion. This result undermines previous interpretation of results in the context of comparative judgements based on the lateralization of emotions (e.g., SNARC-like instructional flexibility), and is fully consistent with our formalization of emotional semantic congruency: The direct Speed-Intensity Association model.


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emotion, facial expressions, semantic congruency, SNARC effect, spatial representation, spatial attention


Fantoni, C., Baldassi, G., Rigutti, S., Prpic, V., Murgia, M., Agostini, T. (2019) Emotional Semantic Congruency based on stimulus driven comparative judgements. Cognition, 190, pp. 20-41


Research Institute

Institute for Psychological Science