The Influence of Negative Affect on Self-Referent Sentence Processing and Memory Performance
Fitts, Austin Greg
University of Kansas
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The current study investigated how a negative mood state affects lexical and sentence processing in individuals that have never experienced depression. Specifically, the goal of this research was to investigate how an induced negative mood state affects the judgment of sentence plausibility and memory for lexical information in a self-referent context. This study also aims to further theories related to the processing of emotion that require more evidence to differentiate between the effect of a transient mood state and the experience of prolonged negative affect. Eighty-five Kansas University students performed 2 experimental blocks each containing 48 randomized sentences, including 18 self-referent sentences in each block. All sentences contained a final word that was chosen according to its negative, positive or neutral valence. The dependent variables were reading time for the sentence final word, reaction time for making the semantic plausibility judgment, and the response choice provided based on sentence content. The two experimental blocks of the reading task were separated by a mood induction procedure where participants were asked to consider a sad moment in their life while listening to Prokokiev's "Russia under the Mongolian yoke." Our results indicate that while in the negative mood state participants were much slower to reject the self-statements ending with a negative word. This effect occurred even though participants spent less time reading the sentence final words while in the negative mood. Overall, our response choice analyses indicated that participants were also less likely to judge the negative self-referent statements as implausible and more likely to accept the positive self-statements. Considering memory performance, we found that negative mood decreases overall memory performance. Valence analyses suggest a bias to recall positive self-referent targets regardless of mood state. Our findings support trait-specific models of emotion processing that have shown a positive cognitive processing bias in nondepressed populations.
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