Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 1203–1216 | Cite as

Conflict Processing is Modulated by Positive Emotion Word Type in Second Language: An ERP Study

  • Chenggang Wu
  • Juan ZhangEmail author


In the present study, we examined modulations of the second language (L2) positive emotion-label words, positive emotion-laden words, and neutral words on conflict processing in a flanker task. Twenty Chinese–English bilinguals were instructed to decide the color of the central words that were vertically surrounded by the same words with the same or different color. During the task, their cortical activation was recorded. The result showed that L2 positive emotion-laden words elicited different brain activations from emotion-label words and neutral words at both early and late stages. Differential modulations on conflict processing between positive emotion-label words and positive emotion-laden words in the L2 existed even after approach-motivation intensity was controlled. These results suggest emotion word type affects conflict processing, even in L2.


Emotion-label words Emotion-laden words Incongruent effect Second language Event-related potential 



This study was supported by MYRG2017-00217-FED, MYRG2016-00193-FED, and MYRG2015-00221-FED from the University of Macau in Macau. The authors would thank Kai Chen for his assistance on programming and data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10936_2019_9653_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 21 kb)


  1. Algom, D., Chajut, E., & Lev, S. (2004). A rational look at the emotional stroop phenomenon: A generic slowdown, not a stroop effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133(3), 323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altarriba, J., & Basnight-Brown, D. M. (2011). The representation of emotion vs. emotion-laden words in English and Spanish in the Affective Simon Task. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15(3), 310–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ayçiçegi-Dinn, A., & Caldwell-Harris, C. L. (2009). Emotion-memory effects in bilingual speakers: A levels-of-processing approach. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12(03), 291–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brysbaert, M., & New, B. (2009). Moving beyond Kučera and Francis: A critical evaluation of current word frequency norms and the introduction of a new and improved word frequency measure for American English. Behavior Research Methods, 41(4), 977–990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen, P., Lin, J., Chen, B., Lu, C., & Guo, T. (2015). Processing emotional words in two languages with one brain: ERP and fMRI evidence from Chinese–English bilinguals. Cortex, 71, 34–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Citron, F. M. (2012). Neural correlates of written emotion word processing: A review of recent electrophysiological and hemodynamic neuroimaging studies. Brain and Language, 122(3), 211–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Colbeck, K. L., & Bowers, J. S. (2012). Blinded by taboo words in L1 but not L2. Emotion, 12(2), 217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Conrad, M., Recio, G., & Jacobs, A. M. (2011). The time course of emotion effects in first and second language processing: A cross cultural ERP study with German–Spanish bilinguals. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Delaney-Busch, N., Wilkie, G., & Kuperberg, G. (2016). Vivid: How valence and arousal influence word processing under different task demands. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 16(3), 415–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Delplanque, S., Silvert, L., Hot, P., Rigoulot, S., & Sequeira, H. (2006). Arousal and valence effects on event-related P3a and P3b during emotional categorization. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 60(3), 315–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Electrical Geodesics, I. (2003). Net station waveform tools technical manual. s-man-200-wtfr-001 (Technical Report): EGI.Google Scholar
  12. Eriksen, B. A., & Eriksen, C. W. (1974). Effects of noise letters upon the identification of a target letter in a nonsearch task. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 16(1), 143–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frings, C., Englert, J., Wentura, D., & Bermeitinger, C. (2010). Decomposing the emotional Stroop effect. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63(1), 42–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gable, P. A., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2008). Approach-motivated positive affect reduces breadth of attention. Psychological Science, 19(5), 476–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gao, S., Zika, O., Rogers, R. D., & Thierry, G. (2015). Second language feedback abolishes the “hot hand” effect during even-probability gambling. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(15), 5983–5989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Iacozza, S., Costa, A., & Duñabeitia, J. A. (2017). What do your eyes reveal about your foreign language? Reading emotional sentences in a native and foreign language. PLoS ONE, 12(10), e0186027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Imbir, K., Spustek, T., Bernatowicz, G., Duda, J., & Żygierewicz, J. (2017a). Two Aspects of activation: Arousal and subjective significance–behavioral and event-related potential correlates investigated by means of a modified emotional stroop task. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Imbir, K. K., Jurkiewicz, G., Duda-Goławska, J., Pastwa, M., & Żygierewicz, J. (2018). The N400/FN400 and lateralized readiness potential neural correlates of valence and origin of words’ affective connotations in ambiguous task processing. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1981.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Imbir, K. K., Spustek, T., Duda, J., Bernatowicz, G., & Żygierewicz, J. (2017b). N450 and LPC event-related potential correlates of an Emotional Stroop Task with words differing in valence and emotional origin. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jankowiak, K., & Korpal, P. (2018). On modality effects in bilingual emotional language processing: Evidence from galvanic skin response. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research , 47(3), 663–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jończyk, R. (2016). Affect-language interactions in native and non-native English speakers. Springer International Publishing AG.Google Scholar
  22. Jończyk, R., Boutonnet, B., Musiał, K., Hoemann, K., & Thierry, G. (2016). The bilingual brain turns a blind eye to negative statements in the second language. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 16(3), 527–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kanske, P., & Kotz, S. A. (2007). Concreteness in emotional words: ERP evidence from a hemifield study. Brain Research, 1148, 138–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kanske, P., & Kotz, S. A. (2010). Modulation of early conflict processing: N200 responses to emotional words in a flanker task. Neuropsychologia, 48(12), 3661–3664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kanske, P., & Kotz, S. A. (2011). Conflict processing is modulated by positive emotion: ERP data from a flanker task. Behavioural Brain Research, 219(2), 382–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kazanas, S. A., & Altarriba, J. (2015). The automatic activation of emotion and emotion-laden words: Evidence from a masked and unmasked priming paradigm. The American journal of Psychology, 128(3), 323–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kazanas, S. A., & Altarriba, J. (2016a). Emotion word processing: Effects of word type and valence in Spanish–English bilinguals. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 45(2), 395–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kazanas, S. A., & Altarriba, J. (2016b). Emotion word type and affective valence priming at a long stimulus onset asynchrony. Language and Speech, 59(3), 339–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kazanas, S. A., McLean, J. S., & Altarriba, J. (2019). Emotion and emotion concepts: Processing and use in monolingual and bilingual speakers. In J. Schwieter & M. Paradis (Eds.), The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism, 313–334.Google Scholar
  30. Kissler, J., Herbert, C., Peyk, P., & Junghofer, M. (2007). Buzzwords early cortical responses to emotional words during reading. Psychological Science, 18(6), 475–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kousaie, S., & Phillips, N. A. (2012). Conflict monitoring and resolution: Are two languages better than one? Evidence from reaction time and event-related brain potentials. Brain Research, 1446, 71–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kutas, M., & Federmeier, K. D. (2011). Thirty years and counting: Finding meaning in the N400 component of the event-related brain potential (ERP). Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 621–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Larsen, R. J., Mercer, K. A., Balota, D. A., & Strube, M. J. (2008). Not all negative words slow down lexical decision and naming speed: Importance of word arousal. Emotion, 8(4), 445–452.Google Scholar
  34. Lemhöfer, K., & Broersma, M. (2012). Introducing LexTALE: A quick and valid lexical test for advanced learners of English. Behavior Research Methods, 44(2), 325–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Li, W., Jiang, Z., Liu, Y., Wu, Q., Zhou, Z., Jorgensen, N., et al. (2014). Positive and negative emotions modulate attention allocation in color-flanker task processing: Evidence from event related potentials. Motivation and Emotion, 38(3), 451–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lindquist, K. A., & Gendron, M. (2013). What’s in a word? Language constructs emotion perception. Emotion Review, 5(1), 66–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Liu, Y., Wang, Z., Quan, S., & Li, M. (2017). The effect of positive affect on conflict resolution: Modulated by approach-motivational intensity. Cognition and Emotion, 31(1), 69–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martin, J. M., & Altarriba, J. (2017). Effects of valence on hemispheric specialization for emotion word processing. Language and Speech, 60(4), 597–613.Google Scholar
  39. Opitz, B., & Degner, J. (2012). Emotionality in a second language: It’s a matter of time. Neuropsychologia, 50(8), 1961–1967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Paap, K. R., Johnson, H. A., & Sawi, O. (2014). Are bilingual advantages dependent upon specific tasks or specific bilingual experiences? Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 26(6), 615–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pavlenko, A. (2012). Affective processing in bilingual speakers: Disembodied cognition? International Journal of Psychology, 47(6), 405–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pavlenko, A. (2017). Do you wish to waive your rights? Affect and decision-making in multilingual speakers. Current opinion in Psychology, 17, 74–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ponari, M., Rodríguez-Cuadrado, S., Vinson, D., Fox, N., Costa, A., & Vigliocco, G. (2015). Processing advantage for emotional words in bilingual speakers. Emotion, 15(5), 644–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roselli, M., Vélez-Uribe, I., & Ardila, A. (2017). Emotional associations of words in L1 and L2 in bilinguals. In A. Ardila, A. Cieślicka, R. Heredia, & M. Rosselli (Eds.), Psychology of bilingualism (pp. 39–72). Springer.Google Scholar
  45. Schrauf, R. W., & Sanchez, J. (2004). The preponderance of negative emotion words in the emotion lexicon: A cross-generational and cross-linguistic study. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 25(2–3), 266–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sheikh, N. A., & Titone, D. (2016). The embodiment of emotional words in a second language: An eye-movement study. Cognition and Emotion, 30(3), 488–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sutton, T. M., & Altarriba, J. (2008). Emotion words in the mental lexicon: A new look at the emotional Stroop effect. The Mental Lexicon, 3(1), 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vinson, D., Ponari, M., & Vigliocco, G. (2014). How does emotional content affect lexical processing? Cognition and Emotion, 28(4), 737–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Voss, J. L., & Federmeier, K. D. (2011). FN400 potentials are functionally identical to N400 potentials and reflect semantic processing during recognition testing. Psychophysiology, 48(4), 532–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Warriner, A. B., Kuperman, V., & Brysbaert, M. (2013). Norms of valence, arousal, and dominance for 13,915 English lemmas. Behavior Research Methods, 45(4), 1191–1207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Xue, S., Cui, J., Wang, K., Zhang, S., Qiu, J., & Luo, Y. (2013). Positive emotion modulates cognitive control: An event-related potentials study. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 54(2), 82–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhang, J., Teo, T., & Wu, C. (2018a). Emotion words modulate early conflict processing in a flanker task: Differentiating emotion-label words and emotion-laden words in second language. Language and Speech.
  53. Zhang, J., Wu, C., Meng, Y., & Yuan, Z. (2017). Different neural correlates of emotion-label words and emotion-laden words: An ERP study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 589. Scholar
  54. Zhang, J., Wu, C., Yuan, Z., & Meng, Y. (2018b). Different early and late processing of emotion-label words and emotion-laden words in second language: An ERP study. Second Language Research.
  55. Zinchenko, A., Kanske, P., Obermeier, C., Schröger, E., & Kotz, S. A. (2015). Emotion and goal-directed behavior: ERP evidence on cognitive and emotional conflict. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(11), 1577–1587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zinchenko, A., Obermeier, C., Kanske, P., Schröger, E., & Kotz, S. A. (2017). Positive emotion impedes emotional but not cognitive conflict processing. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 17(3), 665–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of MacauTaipaMacau
  2. 2.Center for Cognitive and Brain SciencesUniversity of MacauTaipaMacau

Personalised recommendations