Modulation of motor-meaning congruity effects for valenced words


We investigated the extent to which emotionally valenced words automatically cue spatio-motor representations. Participants made speeded button presses, moving their hand upward or downward while viewing words with positive or negative valence. Only the color of the words was relevant to the response; on target trials, there was no requirement to read the words or process their meaning. In Experiment 1, upward responses were faster for positive words, and downward for negative words. This effect was extinguished, however, when words were repeated. In Experiment 2, participants performed the same primary task with the addition of distractor trials. Distractors either oriented attention toward the words’ meaning or toward their color. Congruity effects were increased with orientation to meaning, but eliminated with orientation to color. When people read words with emotional valence, vertical spatio-motor representations are activated highly automatically, but this automaticity is modulated by repetition and by attentional orientation to the words’ form or meaning.

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