Emotions in reading: Disgust, empathy and the contextual learning hypothesis


  • Silva Catarina
  • Montant Marie
  • Ponz Aurelie
  • Ziegler Johannes C.

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Emotion effects in reading have typically been investigated by manipulating words' emotional valence and arousal in lexical decision. The standard finding is that valence and arousal can have both facilitatory and inhibitory effects, which is hard to reconcile with current theories of emotion processing in reading. Here, we contrasted these theories with the contextual-learning hypothesis, according to which, sensitivity to a specific emotion - disgust in the present study - rather than valence or arousal affects lexical decision performance. Participants were divided into two groups (high versus low disgust sensitivity). Results showed that participants with high disgust sensitivity showed an inhibitory effect, whereas participants with low-disgust sensitivity showed a facilitatory effect. Individual differences in lexical decision performance were predicted by disgust sensitivity but not valence, arousal, or general emotion sensitivity. These findings highlight the need to focus on individual differences both in studies and theories of emotion processing in reading. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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