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Concept: Somatic markers hypothesis


Research has shown that people often exert control over their emotions. By modulating expressions, reappraising feelings, and redirecting attention, they can regulate their emotional experience. These findings have contributed to a blurring of the traditional boundaries between cognitive and emotional processes, and it has been suggested that emotional signals are produced in a goal-directed way and monitored for errors like other intentional actions. However, this interesting possibility has never been experimentally tested. To this end, we created a digital audio platform to covertly modify the emotional tone of participants' voices while they talked in the direction of happiness, sadness, or fear. The result showed that the audio transformations were being perceived as natural examples of the intended emotions, but the great majority of the participants, nevertheless, remained unaware that their own voices were being manipulated. This finding indicates that people are not continuously monitoring their own voice to make sure that it meets a predetermined emotional target. Instead, as a consequence of listening to their altered voices, the emotional state of the participants changed in congruence with the emotion portrayed, which was measured by both self-report and skin conductance level. This change is the first evidence, to our knowledge, of peripheral feedback effects on emotional experience in the auditory domain. As such, our result reinforces the wider framework of self-perception theory: that we often use the same inferential strategies to understand ourselves as those that we use to understand others.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Emotion, Feeling, Attitude change, Somatic markers hypothesis


The current paper proposes the Dysexecutive Luck hypothesis; that beliefs in being unlucky are associated with deficits in executive functioning. Four studies suggest initial support for the Dysexecutive Luck hypothesis via four aspects of executive functioning. Study 1 established that self-reports of dysexecutive symptoms predicted unique variance in beliefs in being unlucky after controlling for a number of other variables previously reported to be related to beliefs around luck. Studies 2 to 4 demonstrated support for the Dysexecutive Luck hypothesis via assessment of executive functioning via: (1) two fundamental executive functions (shifting and inhibition), (2) emotional processes related to executive functioning as described by the Somatic Marker hypothesis, and (3) higher executive functions as accessed via divergent thinking. The findings suggest that individuals' beliefs in being unlucky are accompanied by a range of deficits in executive functioning.

Concepts: Cognitive science, Neuropsychology, Working memory, Self, Executive functions, Neuropsychological assessment, Stroop effect, Somatic markers hypothesis


Emotions can evoke strong reactions that have profound influences, from gross changes in our internal environment to small fluctuations in facial muscles, and reveal our feelings overtly. Muscles contain proprioceptive afferents, informing us about our movements and regulating motor activities. Their firing reflects changes in muscle length, yet their sensitivity can be modified by the fusimotor system, as found in animals. In humans, the sensitivity of muscle afferents is modulated by cognitive processes, such as attention; however, it is unknown if emotional processes can modulate muscle feedback. Presently, we explored whether muscle afferent sensitivity adapts to the emotional situation. We recorded from single muscle afferents in the leg, using microneurography, and moved the ankle joint of participants, while they listened to evocative classical music to induce sad, neutral, or happy emotions, or sat passively (no music). We further monitored their physiological responses using skin conductance, heart rate, and electromyography measures. We found that muscle afferent firing was modified by the emotional context, especially for sad emotions, where the muscle spindle dynamic response increased. We suggest that this allows us to prime movements, where the emotional state prepares the body for consequent behaviour-appropriate reactions.

Concepts: Psychology, Heart, Muscle, Human anatomy, Emotion, Muscle spindle, Feeling, Somatic markers hypothesis


The following prospective longitudinal study considers the ways that protracted exposure to verbal and physical aggression between parents may take a substantial toll on emotional adjustment for 1,025 children followed from 6 to 58 months of age. Exposure to chronic poverty from infancy to early childhood as well as multiple measures of household chaos were also included as predictors of children’s ability to recognize and modulate negative emotions in order to disentangle the role of interparental conflict from the socioeconomic forces that sometimes accompany it. Analyses revealed that exposure to greater levels of interparental conflict, more chaos in the household, and a higher number of years in poverty can be empirically distinguished as key contributors to 58-month-olds' ability to recognize and modulate negative emotion. Implications for models of experiential canalization of emotional processes within the context of adversity are discussed.

Concepts: Scientific method, Longitudinal study, Sociology, Childhood, Aggression, Emotion, Somatic markers hypothesis


The study of development is, in and of itself, the study of change over time, but emotions, particularly emotional reactivity and emotional regulation, also unfold over time, albeit over briefer time-scales. Adolescence is a period of development characterized by marked changes in emotional processes and rewiring of the underlying neural circuitry, making this time of life formative. Yet this period is also a time of increased risk for anxiety and mood disorders. Changes in the temporal dynamics of emotional processes (e.g. magnitude, time-to-peak and duration) occur during this developmental period and have been associated with risk for mood and anxiety disorders. In this article, we describe how the temporal dynamics of emotions change during adolescence and how they may increase risk for these psychopathologies. We highlight studies that illustrate how formalizing temporal neurodynamics of emotion may enhance links among levels of analyses from neurobiological to real-world, moment-to-moment experiences.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Neuroscience, Emotion, Feeling, Social neuroscience, Mood, Somatic markers hypothesis


The ability to cognitively regulate emotional responses to aversive events is essential for mental and physical health. One prerequisite of successful emotion regulation is the awareness of emotional states, which in turn is associated with the awareness of bodily signals [interoceptive awareness (IA)]. This study investigated the neural dynamics of reappraisal of emotional responses in 28 participants who differed with respect to IA. Electroencephalography was used to characterize the time course of emotion regulation. We found that reappraisal was accompanied by reduced arousal and significant modulation of late neural responses. What is more, higher IA facilitated downregulation of affect and was associated with more pronounced modulation of underlying neural activity. Therefore, we conclude that IA not only advances the consolidation of somatic markers required for guiding individual behaviour but also creates processing advantages in tasks referring to these bodily markers.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Affect, Emotion, Affective neuroscience, Somatic markers hypothesis


According to Damasio’s somatic marker hypothesis, emotions are generated by conveying the current state of the body to the brain through interoceptive and proprioceptive afferent input. The resulting brain activation patterns represent unconscious emotions and correlate with subjective feelings. This proposition implies a corollary that the deliberate control of motor behavior could regulate feelings. We tested this possibility, hypothesizing that engaging in movements associated with a certain emotion would enhance that emotion and/or the corresponding valence. Furthermore, because motor imagery and observation are thought to activate the same mirror-neuron network engaged during motor execution, they might also activate the same emotional processing circuits, leading to similar emotional effects. Therefore, we measured the effects of motor execution, motor imagery and observation of whole-body dynamic expressions of emotions (happiness, sadness, fear) on affective state. All three tasks enhanced the corresponding affective state, indicating their potential to regulate emotions.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Emotion, Affective neuroscience, Feeling, Somatic markers hypothesis


In reviewing four prominent theories, Gunderson et al. (2018) incidentally highlight for the reader the need for new collaborative research efforts that draw together scholars representing these various theories o borderline personality pathology. Many avenues for such research exist that have the potential to improve o r overall understanding of the development, maintenance and possible treatment of borderline personality pathology in ways that research grounded in just one theory does not. Herein, the similarities and differences among these theories in their assumptions with regard to emotional baselines and sequences of emotion (i.e., primary and secondary emotional reactions) are discussed as one important direction for cross-theory research collaborations.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Borderline personality disorder, Psychiatry, Emotion, Personality disorder, Histrionic personality disorder, Somatic markers hypothesis


There is a strong inter-relation of cognitive and emotional processes as evidenced by emotional conflict monitoring processes. In the cognitive domain, proactive effects of conflicts have widely been studied; i.e. effects of conflicts in the n-1 trial on trial n. Yet, the neurophysiological processes and associated functional neuroanatomical structures underlying such proactive effects during emotional conflicts have not been investigated. This is done in the current study combining EEG recordings with signal decomposition methods and source localization approaches. We show that an emotional conflict in the n-1 trial differentially influences processing of positive and negative emotions in trial n, but not the processing of conflicts in trial n. The dual competition framework stresses the importance of dissociable ‘perceptual’ and ‘response selection’ or cognitive control levels for interactive effects of cognition and emotion. Only once these coding levels were isolated in the neurophysiological data, processes explaining the behavioral effects were detectable. The data show that there is not only a close correspondence between theoretical propositions of the dual competition framework and neurophysiological processes. Rather, processing levels conceptualized in the framework operate in overlapping time windows, but are implemented via distinct functional neuroanatomical structures; the precuneus (BA31) and the insula (BA13). It seems that decoding of information in the precuneus, as well as the integration of information during response selection in the insula is more difficult when confronted with angry facial emotions whenever cognitive control resources have been highly taxed by previous conflicts.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Cognition, Perception, Conflict, Emotion, Somatic markers hypothesis, Emotional conflict


Using appropriate stimuli to evoke emotions is especially important for researching emotion. Psychologists have provided several standardized affective stimulus databases-such as the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) and the Nencki Affective Picture System (NAPS) as visual stimulus databases, as well as the International Affective Digitized Sounds (IADS) and the Montreal Affective Voices as auditory stimulus databases for emotional experiments. However, considering the limitations of the existing auditory stimulus database studies, research using auditory stimuli is relatively limited compared with the studies using visual stimuli. First, the number of sample sounds is limited, making it difficult to equate across emotional conditions and semantic categories. Second, some artificially created materials (music or human voice) may fail to accurately drive the intended emotional processes. Our principal aim was to expand existing auditory affective sample database to sufficiently cover natural sounds. We asked 207 participants to rate 935 sounds (including the sounds from the IADS-2) using the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) and three basic-emotion rating scales. The results showed that emotions in sounds can be distinguished on the affective rating scales, and the stability of the evaluations of sounds revealed that we have successfully provided a larger corpus of natural, emotionally evocative auditory stimuli, covering a wide range of semantic categories. Our expanded, standardized sound sample database may promote a wide range of research in auditory systems and the possible interactions with other sensory modalities, encouraging direct reliable comparisons of outcomes from different researchers in the field of psychology.

Concepts: Psychology, Affect, Sensory system, Emotion, Affective neuroscience, Feeling, Affect display, Somatic markers hypothesis