Attentional bias towards emotional linguistic material has been examined extensively with the emotion-word Stroop task. Although findings in clinical groups show an interference effect of emotional words that relate to the specific concern of the group, findings concerning healthy groups are less clear. In the present study, we investigated whether emotional Stroop interference in healthy individuals is affected by exposure of the words prior to the task. We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine the temporal aspects of Stroop interference. Participants took longer to indicate the colour of negative than of neutral words. Exposure of words prior to the Stroop task increased response latencies, but this effect was equal for neutral and negative words. At the neurophysiological level, we found more positive-going ERPs at later latencies (P290, N400 and LPP) in response to negative than in response to neutral Stroop words. The N400 was less negative for exposed than for new words, but this effect did not interact with the emotional valence of the words. For new (i.e., unexposed) words, the behavioural Stroop interference correlated with the P290, N400 and LPP emotion effects (negative minus neutral words). The successive ERP components suggest better prelexical, semantic, and sustained attentional processing of emotion words, even when the emotional content of the words is task-irrelevant.

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Keywords Attentional bias, Emotion-word Stroop task, Emotional interference, Event-related potentials, Healthy subjects, LPP, N400, Recent word exposure
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Journal International Journal of Psychophysiology
Gootjes, L, Coppens, L.C, Zwaan, R.A, Franken, I.H.A, & van Strien, J.W. (2011). Effects of recent word exposure on emotion-word Stroop interference: An ERP study. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 79(3), 356–363. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2010.12.003