The Distinctiveness of Emotion Concepts: A Comparison between Emotion, Abstract, and Concrete Words Author(s): Jeanette Altarriba and

Lisa M. Bauer Source: The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 117, No. 3 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 389-410 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4149007 Accessed: 01/02/2010 07:14
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The distinctiveness of emotionconcepts: A comparison betweenemotion,abstract, and concrete words
JEANETTE ALTARRIBA University at Albany, State University of New York LISA M. BAUER Utica College of Syracuse University Are the concepts represented by emotion words different from abstract words in memory? We examined the distinct characteristics of emotion concepts in 3 separate experiments. The first demonstrated that emotion words are better recalled than both concrete and abstract words in a free recall task. In the second experiment, ratings of abstract, concrete, and emotion words were compared on concreteness, imageability, and context availability scales. Results revealed a difference between all 3 word types on each of the 3 scales. The third experiment investigated priming in a lexical decision task for homogeneous (abstract-abstract and emotion-emotion) and heterogeneous (abstract-emotion and emotion-abstract) associated word pairs. Priming occurred only for the homogeneous and heterogeneous abstract-emotion word pair conditions. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed in terms of the circumplex, hierarchical, and semantic activation models. The results are most consistent with the predictions of the semantic activation model. Although the literature on the cognitive processing of emotion words is almost nonexistent, the evidence indicating the importance of emotional self-awareness and emotional intelligence in human development and psychological well-being is accumulating rapidly (Goleman, 1995). The awareness of emotions and the ability to recognize, name, and understand the causes of these feelings are important to overall emotional competence. These abilities have been linked to a lower incidence of depression in both children and adults, the cessation of eating disorders, and a reduction in mental illness in recent years (Goleman, 1995). Because emotional awareness is important, a logical and necessary step in this area of research is to discover the fundamental attributes of emotion words in human memory. Fundamental attributes of various word types have been examined by studying word representation and word retrieval. In the study of word
AMERICANJOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY Fall 2004, Vol. 117, No. 3, pp. 389-410
? 2004 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

and comprehension tests (Holmes & Langford. Paivio's dual-coding theory accounts for concreteness effects by stating that both concrete and abstract words are represented in the logogen system. 1992). concrete words are remembered better than abstract words because the image provides an additional means through which the concrete words can be stored and retrieved. 1986) dual-codingmodel or by a context availability hyAkin. A second explanation used to interpret concreteness effects is a context availability hypothesis. paired associatelearning. This theory predicts that with adequate contextual support. 1986). abstract and wordretrieval. Therefore.390 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER concrete words over abstract words has to do with sensory information (Paivio. thereby yielding an advantage for concrete words over abstract words in lexical processing. Therefore.includinglexicaldecision (Day. and they have an additive effect. recognition (Paivio. reportedin a variety 1975).James. When a concrete word is produced. pothesis (Schwanenflugel.According to this hypothesis. when abstract and concrete words are presented in isolation it is more difficult to retrieve contextual information for abstract words than for concrete words. 1985). which emphasizes the ease with which a context or circumstance in which the word appeared can be recalled (Schwanenflugel et al. The imagen system is a nonverbal system responsible for the representation and processing of nonverbal information. 1971. The contextual information can be retrieved from prior knowledge or from information in the stimulus environment. Paivioand his colleagues suggested that the processingadvantageof . 1988).. & Luh. see also Schwanenflugel & Akin. 1971. These representations are differentially available in memory contingent on the stimulus' concreteness.1976).often calleda concretenesseffect.has been of tasks. free recall. Concreteness effects often are explained in terms of Paivio's(1971. it may be easy to think of a context for the word bedbut difficult to think of a context for the word freedom. resulting in poorer recall for abstract words. For example. 1986. According to the dual-coding theory.& Stowe. 1992). a robustfindingis thatconcretewords representation such as bedare rememberedbetter than abstractwords such asfreedom (Schwanenflugel.Harnishfeger. The logogen system is responsible for the representation and processing of linguistic information. 1994). both the logogen and the imagen systems are activated. concreteness effects arise from a differential availability of contextual information. there are two functionally independent yet interconnected representational systems: a verbal system (the logogen system) and an imaginal system (the imagen system). but only concrete words are connected to the imagen system. Additionally.1977.concretenesseffects exist for both children and adults (Vellutino& Scanlon. This advantagein the processingof concretewords.

Participants were asked to recall unrelated abstract and concrete stimuli that were equated on the accessibility of contextual information. Senehi. It may be that emotion words placed in the abstract category increase or decrease the actual concreteness effects by influencing the measures of the abstract category. it may be used. The basic premise of the dualcoding theory is that concrete words are recalled better than abstract words because concrete words have an imagen system that abstract words lack. Therefore. Additionally.However. & Zaidel.. 1992). information that is readily available from prior knowledge will be used. . The results uncovered an effect of imageability inWhen participants reported implementdependent of context availability. However. Eviator. CONCRETE. 1989).EMOTION. 1992). & Nuding. Nelson & Schreiber. Schwanenflugel et al. They also investigated the strategies that participants used when recalling the stimuli. the imageability of various word types plays a role in the predictions of the dual-coding theory.. the results may be confounded. (1992) investigated whether the effects of imageability on recall are independent of the effects of contextual information on recall. 1990. has also been examined. AND ABSTRACT WORDS 391 stimuli can be learned as well as concrete stimuli. Additional support for the context availability hypothesis stems from studies that have found that concreteness effects disappear when the stimuli are presented in a supportive context (Schwanenflugel et al. 1987. The role of imageability. Therefore. It is important to note that in the concreteness effects literature emotion words often are included with the abstract stimuli with no justification for this classification (Chiarello. This prediction was supported in a paired-associate experiment. The aforementioned research on concreteness effects indicates that concrete and abstract words have been investigated on dimensions such as concreteness. 1988. if imagery does not appear to be necessary in completing a task. concreteness effects were present regardless of whether the stimuli were equated on context availability. concreteness effects were found only when the stimuli were not equated on context availability. it appears that when imagery is perceived as being helpful in completing a task. Previous studies have not considered that emotion words may elicit different activations and may be distinct from abstract words and that if emotion terms are classified as abstract. and imageability. context availability. Bransford and McCarrell (1974) found that when abstract stimuli were meaningfully related to the response pairs. Menn. ing imagery. the extent to which a mental image is evoked by a referent. Schwanenflugel & Stowe. when participants did not report using imagery to recall the items. they were recalled as well as concrete stimuli because the response pairs were providing the context for the abstract stimuli (Schwanenflugel et al. it is possible that imagery plays a role in the accessibility of contextual information.

e.then the number of emotion wordsrecalled in a free recall taskshould be no different from the number of abstractwords recalled. EXPERIMENT 1 METHOD Participants fromthe University 30 menand30women. wereclassified Words pleasantness components whosemeanings referred to something froma material that independent object werenotclassified asan emotion word weredesignated asabstract words. Experimenters(Paivio. it waspredictedthatemotionwordswouldbe respondedto differently than concrete and abstractwords. at students. 72words wereselected fromBleas(24of eachof the threetypes) dale(1987). objectwereclassified Multidimensional andfactor thatemotional studies exscaling analytic suggest consist of bothavalence(pleasant orunpleasant) andanarousal periences (low. This was accomplished by looking at the results of a free recall experiment. words whosemeanings wereaffective andhadpleasantness or unTherefore.Clore.1971.If emotion wordsdo not elicit differentcharacteristics than abstract words. Materials The abstract. lowin concreteness. Using thesecriteria.Russell 1985). . Schreiber andO'Connor (1992). andarousal as emotionwords. Kirson. of emotion words whetherthe classification Experiment1 investigated as abstract in previousstudieswasappropriate byconductinga simplefree recall experiment. context availability.Words wereclassified concrete. In addition.and a priming experiment. 1980.and emotionwords whosemeaningdenoteda material as concretewords.Chiarello et al.Shaver. Schwartz.Nelsonand Ortony. & Bullock.andWhissell (1989).1991. Sixty undergraduate tookpart in thisstudy forpartial of a course Each fulfillment Albany requirement. a priori. 1986) have found that concretewordswere recalledmore often than abstract words. medium. a rating study.Experiment1 investigated whetheremotion wordshavethe same memorialpropertiesas abstractand concrete words. wasa native participant English speaker. In each case.. both abstractand emotion wordsshould be recalled less often than concrete words. (1987). (1987).392 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER The aim of the present series of experimentsis to investigatewhether emotion wordsbehaveas abstract wordsbehave (i. or high) component(Russell. andFoss(1987). and imagery) or whether concepts represented by emotion wordshave characteristics that are distinctlydifferentfrom the characteristicsof the concepts represented by abstractand concrete words.

four buffer words. were used to reduce primacy and recency effects.infatuated. the buffers were excited. card.and pepper.lonely.and upset. each participant heard 24 words. each word was presented auditorily for 5 s.penny.and finish. the buffers were dragon. For the abstract list.travel. After the presentation of each list. They were given as much time as they needed. donor. a 10-word practice list composed of all three word types was presented before the experimental list. Procedure To ensure that the participants understood the task. participants were asked to write down as many words as they could remember on a sheet of paper containing 10 blanks for the practice list and 24 blanks for the experimental lists. Table 1. the practice list and one of the three experimental lists. For both the practice and the experimental list. the buffers were easy. Each list consisted of 20 words. concrete list. These lists are presented in Table 1. and all three lists were matched in frequency and in length. Additionally. AND ABSTRACT WORDS 393 A list of words was constructed for each of the three word types (abstract.Therefore. CONCRETE. Participants were told before the presentation of each list that they were to remember as many words as possible because they would later need to recall the words. Words used in Experiment 1 Emotion words angry thrilled furious happy grateful glad depressed delighted disappointed hopeful discouraged afraid cheerful love sad surprised mad anxious joy annoyed Concrete words machine airplane flag basket clock apartment scissors building balloon magazine sock cigar dog newspaper castle girl rope elephant canoe factory Abstract words height quench patriotism health capability aid humor wealth win advice drama wisdom attitude culture intellect nonsense honor chaos obey heaven . concrete. and emotion). but only the middle 20 words were included in the scoring. For the For the emotion list. two presented at the beginning of each list and two presented at the end of each list.EMOTION.

imageability. it may be that both concrete and emotion words are stored in two representational systems.F(2. happiness. and context availability scales. It was predicted that the emotion words would more readily activate images and contexts than abstractwords would.Therefore.40). sadness. Planned comparisons revealed that participants recalled more emotion wordsthan abstractor concrete words.participants abstractwords (SD= 0. disgust. These findings replicateearlierresultsthat concrete wordsare recalledmore often to our knowlwordsin free recallexperiments.394 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Incorrectresponsesand bufferwordswere not scored. p < .allowingthem to be recalledbetterthan abstract in termsof the context availability hypothesis(SchwanenfluAlternatively. This researchindicatesthatemotion words have perceptualreferents. The second experimentused a ratingtaskto investigatehow emotion. perhapsemotion wordshave more contexts associated with them and are representedby a broaderrange of contexts in which they have been experienced.and then by abstractwords (all ps < .40). three meansare statistically MSE= 3. abstract. The results of the ANOVA differentfrom each other.Friesen.08. 1988). and 9. it is plausible that an image may words.05).and concrete wordswere rated on concreteness. 1972.the currentfindingsseem to suggestthatperhaps there is an underlyingdifference between the three word types. 1986) dual-codingtheory statesthat concrete wordsare recalled better than abstract wordsbecause concrete wordshavean image associwith that wordslack.Izard. gel et al.01.75 concrete words (SD= 0. fear. An analysisof variance(ANOVA) wasconducted to comparethe means acrossthe three conditions. This hypothesis is based partiallyon previous research on the studieshavefound of facialexpressions. and surprise) have a universalexpression (Ekman.Additionally. In termsof the dual-codingtheoryand the context availability hypothesis mentioned earlier.. & Ellsworth.001. wordsin a free recalltask. Meannumberof wordsrecalledand standarddeviationsfor recalled5. whereas abstract words . 7.1971).Perhapsemotion wordsalso have ated them abstract words.Referring be more accessiblefor emotion wordsthan for abstract to the dual-coding theory. 108) = 19.followed by concrete words. betterrecalledthan either concrete or abstract The currentfindingssuggestthat there are underlyingdifferencesin the processingof these three word types.1 indicate that the emotion words (SD= 0.On average.70 the threewordtypesare as follows.38).Paivio's (1971.Severalcross-cultural universality thatwhen participants performa recognitionof photographedemotional expressions task at least six emotions (anger. an image system. thanabstract wordsare emotion that first time for the these results demonstrate edge.

and the emotion word scared may elicit an image of a scared facial expression. or context availability.The instructions for each of the three scales provided examples. Chiarello et al.64). 1967) and length. However.65 (SD= 1. Forty-eight emotion words were selected from Clore et al. Materials Forty-eight concrete and 48 abstract words were selected from Bleasdale (1987). AND ABSTRACT WORDS 395 are stored in a single representational system. thereby supplying participants with anchors on which to base their ratings. The example provided in the context availability scale was taken from a previous study by de Groot (1992) to ensure that . (1987) and Shaver et al. It was also hypothesized that it is easier to produce an appropriate context for an emotion word than for an abstract word. easyto image. imageability.difficultto image. For example.17). Mean frequency for abstract words was 42.49) and for emotion words was 34. Mean frequency for concrete words was 36.98). it may be more difficult to elicit an image for an abstract word such as fact.or difficultto think of a context)to 7 (highlyconcrete.oreasyto thinkof a context). Procedure Twenty-six participants were asked to rate the stimuli on one of the following 7-point scales: concreteness. These words are presented in Table 2. imageability. the concrete word tigermay elicit an image of a tiger. it may be more difficult to think of contexts for abstract words such as infinity and culture. These ideas are explored in Experiment 2. and Nelson and Schreiber (1992). 6.77 (SD= 2. Each participant was a native English speaker. The scales ranged from 1 (highlyabstract. then it may be concluded that emotion words activate characteristics that distinguish them from concrete and abstract words.81). and 6. were randomized and typed into lists. If emotion words produce ratings on these scales that differ from the other two word types.94 (SD = 42. EXPERIMENT 2 METHOD Participants Seventy-eight undergraduate students from the University at Albany participated in this experiment for partial fulfillment of a course requirement or for extra credit.EMOTION.01). (1987). which were matched in frequency (using Ku era & Francis.17 (SD= 1. It may be that the word happy immediately elicits the context of marriage and the word scared immediately elicits the context of public speaking.08 (SD = 39. Corresponding mean lengths were 6. CONCRETE. Emotion words were compared with abstract and concrete words using scales that measure word concreteness. However.56 (SD = 37. and context availability. These 144 words. (1987).

Words used in Experiment 2 Emotion words angry content excited furious moody happy calm scared glad lonely anxious secure surprised alert sorry curious depressed troubled delighted hysterical love upset skeptical thrilled hurt zealous hopeful uncertain thankful concerned afraid unhappy grateful obsessed joy worried miserable nervous serious annoyed confident stupid sad disgusted affectionate mad awful cheerful Concrete words costume cloud brush mirror machine airplane pencil bible garden scissors asphalt timber pepper animal balloon apartment dentist crutch factory cards liquor newspaper jewel basket orange eagle building penny magazine poison tower mouth movie cigar elephant dragon burglar daughter fence jungle police flute castle clown nurse father crown truck Abstract words learning jeopardy mastery truth chance virtue treat attitude quench facility compulsion decency health origin capable wealth entry excuse glory patriotism dare fault capability legend fiction ability grace method impression permission concept chaos conquest essence advice drama haunt culture easy response welfare benefit intellect count theft false nonsense heaven .Table 2.

3 (0.68 to .60) 2. abstract.47.001. p < .p < . 1992). AltarriTable 3.. 1982.Franklin. Tarka. Toglia & Battig. 1994. Schwanenflugel et al.10.001. Friendly et al. & Clayton. Experiment2 mean (SD) concreteness. 1988. Within each scale.Schwanenflugel wordson a single attribute. and emotion words. 141) = 94.88) Note. Eachparticipant Gilhooly&Logie.7 = high.. MSE= 320. CONCRETE. Schwanenflugel et al. and less likely to activate a context than concrete words.Ratingscale:I = low.4 (0. & van Hell..6 (0.00.82 (de Groot.11. 1999.. 1986. and context availability ratings for the 144 concrete. There was also a significant word type effect.6 (0. ratedthe et al. Rubin. AND ABSTRACT WORDS 397 the participants for each of the scales understoodthe directions. & Rubin.95 (Benjafield & Muckenheim. and context words for 144 and emotion concrete. Table 3 presents the mean concreteness.64 to .imageability.0 (0. Paivio. 1989.Hoffman. Concreteness . 1988.65) 3. 1982. Bickley.56) 6.& Benvenuto.36) 6.The instructions are similarto the instructionsused by previousresearchers(Altarriba. imageability.54) 5.75) 3. Gilhooly & Logie. 1980. and correlations between imagery and context availabilityrange from . Bauer. MSE= 42. p < . 1999).. A significant interaction between scale type and word type was also observed. less concrete. 1986. 1978. F(4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION A 3 x 3 ANOVA that treated the rating scale type condition as a betweensubject variable and the word type condition as a within-subject variable was performed. These findings were extremely important because they indicate that emotion words are rated differently from both abstractwords and concrete words on all three scales.68) 4.6 (0.3 (0. Campos. 1980. 1978. Christian. availability ratings Ratingscale Wordtype Concrete Emotion Abstract Context availability Imageability 5.05).001. There was a significant scale type effect.05. which indicates that there are differences in the ratings of word types on the different scales. They are less imageable. p < . F(2. 282) = 128.Friendly. The results indicate that concepts represented by emotion words are more imageable and are easier to think of a context for than abstract words but are less concrete than abstract words.35. F(2. abstract. 141) = 977. 1990. Rubin & Friendly. MSE= 0.0 (0. Dannenburg. Altarriba et al.3 (0. cf. reliable differences were found between all three word types (all ps <.05 for all comparisonsof interest. 1980. cf.EMOTION. Previous studies of abstract and concrete words have found that correlations between concreteness and imagery range from .27) 3.

3) ratings.6) ratings.whereasantonymsfall on the opposite side of the circle. Synonymstend to be closer to one another.4).The context availability rating (M = 5.The correlationbetween anytwoemotion wordsequalsthe cosine of the angle betweenthem. As can be seen in Table3. Russell's circummodel in or facilitation that plex postulates responding positivepriming will occur in relation to the distance in which the emotion wordsfall in the model.3). (1987) proposed a hierarchicalmodel of emotion words. the shorter the path between them.it is importantto note that the aforementionedcorrelationswere calculatedon concrete and abstractword ratings.therebyforminga circularstructure.One model is Russell's(1980.pleasantnessor unpleasantnessand high arousalor low arousal. Activation of one A third model that has been studied implicitly is the semantic network model. Another aim of the current researchwas to investigatehow the concepts representedby emotion and abstractwords are represented in a broader neural networkby means of a priming paradigm. The emotion wordsbecome hierarchically organizedfirstas positiveand and then with emotions (love. This model.Abstract (M = 4.Unlike preimagery(M = 2. the previouspatternof results is consistentwith these correlations. The more semantically related the two concepts. The emotion words had low concreteness (M= 3.of the two emotion wordsof interest. proposes that concepts are connected to one another based on semantic relatedness (Collins & Loftus.sadness. negative prototypical and fear) at the superordinatelevel and membersof these prototypical emotions stored at subordinatelevels.At least two models have been proposed to describe the mental representationof emotion words. like the circumplex willoccur contingent model.0) and imagery (M= 3. 1999). This model ..0) is a bit higher than expected. in termsof distance. the resultsof Experiment2 indicate that emotion wordsactivate differentpropertiesthan abstractand concrete words. The circumplexmodel is a structural model wherebyemotion labels are categorizedon two dimensions. which is also called the spreading activation model.6) and context availwordshavelow concreteness (M = 3.joy. anger. ability(M = 5. Shaveret al.Taken together. However. and context availability viousstudies. predictsthatpositiveprimingor facilitation on the close proximity.6) ratings. 1989) circumplexmodel of emotions.Althoughthese twomodels haveaddressedthe mentalrepresentation of emotion words.they havedone so using explicit methods (such as rating studies) and have not addressed the notion of how emotion wordsare related to concrete and abstract wordsin termsof mental representation. 1975).398 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER ba et al.the presentstudyalso examinedratingsfor emotion words.3) and also high imagery(M = 6.Concretewordshavehigh concreteness ratings(M = 6.

an interstimulus interval (ISI) lasted for 500 ms. CONCRETE. The related word pairs were equated for mean association strength. so that concepts further from the source node are less likely to become activated than are nodes that are in close proximity to the source node. then the presentation of the word prime should facilitate the response to the word target (Neely. Priming paradigms have been used extensively to examine the structure of semantic memory. so homogeneous word pairs (CC and AA) should show priming and heterogeneous word pairs (CA and AC) should not show priming. If two words are semantically related and stored in close proximity in memory. which leads to activation of the next node. Bleasdale found that all pair types (AA. In Bleasdale's Experiment 3 the word pairs were presented to participants using a priming and lexical decision task. concrete-abstract [CA]. The current research uses a priming paradigm to examine the mental representation of emotion words. CC. 1977). and abstract-concrete [AC]). Using the same stimuli as in his Experiment . leads to activation of the next node. and CA) showed significant priming. To our knowledge. Facilitation in responses is assumed to reflect the degree of semantic relatedness between two concepts. Highly related concepts are stored more closely together. A typical trial proceeded as follows. Although this model has not been applied to the mental representation of emotion words. it is plausible that emotion words can be represented by the semantic network model. AND ABSTRACT WORDS 399 node. Bleasdale (1987) stated that this finding could result from postlexical processes such as postlexical relatedness checking (checking the target against the prime for relatedness after target recognition). Bleasdale hypothesized that concrete and abstract words have functionally distinct lexical processes. the strength of the activation decreases. As the activation spreads. A prime was presented for 177 ms. abstract-abstract [AA]. and so on. AC.EMOTION. Related concepts also produce faster response times in word priming tasks. the use of priming paradigms to study the mental representation of emotion words in relation to abstract and concrete words has not been reported. To investigate whether these findings resulted from postlexical processing. and then the target appeared.Bleasdale (1987) has applied the priming paradigm to investigate whether lexical processes are functionally distinct for concrete and abstract words. In a lexical decision task participants judge whether a string of letters is a real word or a pseudoword. the source node. To examine this he created associated and unrelated word pairs that varied on prime and target concreteness (concrete-concrete [CC]. Bleasdale masked the prime and decreased the prime presentation rate in his Experiment 4 to eliminate postrecognition processes and permit only automatic processing to occur. However. The participants were asked to respond to the target as quickly and as accurately as possible.

t(79) = -7. These results would suggest that different lexical processes are involved in the coding.The mean = for emotion words was 3. 13%.400 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER 3. A prime was presented for 16. priming would occur for the homogeneous word pairs (AA.AE.t(79) = 3.'s (1999) collection of Prime-targetpairsweregeneratedusingAltarriba wordassociations. suggesting that different lexical processing occurs for emotion and abstract words. AE. We hypothesized that under conditions of automatic processing homogeneous word pairs (AA and EE) would yield priming and heterogeneous word pairs (AE and EA) would not. a typical trial in Bleasdale's Experiment 4 proceeded as follows.001. storage.81). p < . and EA. Bleasdale found that when prime and target word pairs were homogeneous. To do this. a mask appeared for 168 ms. 11% (all ps > . they did not prime each other. EXPERIMENT 3 METHOD et al.90). emotion-emotion (EE). each were for Twenty pairs generated the AA.61).The mean concretenessfor emotion wordswas 2.32). and retrieval of abstract and emotion words.EE. The hypothesis was similar to Bleasdale's.for a total of 80 prime-targetpairs. The mean strengthof associationwasmatchedfor the four types of related word pairs: AA.7 ms. and the mean imageability imageability for abstract wordswas2. however. as Bleasdale has already demonstrated a distinction in processing concrete words as compared with abstract words.8 (SD= 0. there was an ISI of 32 ms. we constructed related and unrelated word pairs for abstract-abstract (AA).and EA groups. and emotionabstract (EA) conditions. The results of his Experiment 4 revealed significant priming for the homogeneous word pairs (AA and CC) and significant inhibition for the CA word pair condition.27. Thisdifferencewassignificant. when prime and target word pairs were heterogeneous. EA). we hypothesized that in the current study. Based on previous research conducted by Bleasdale (1987) on abstract and concrete word pairs. and the mean concretenessfor abstractwordswas 3. . 13%. 11%.001. The related word pairs were matched on mean association strength across the four pair types.86 (SD= 0. EE) but not for the heterogeneous word pairs (AE. and then the target appeared.05). This differencewasalso significant. Concrete words were not included in this experiment. abstract-emotion (AE).23 (SD 0. The current research implements procedures similar to Bleasdale's (1987) in an attempt to establish whether emotion words elicit different relationships than abstract words. they primed each other. the results of his Experiment 4 imply that there are functionally distinct lexical processes for concrete and abstract words.03.37 (SD= 0. p < . EE. Therefore.

CONCRETE. 40 unrelated pairs (10 pairs in each of the four conditions).EMOTION. each containing 40 related pairs (10 pairs in each of the four conditions). were produced from the same pool as the critical items. Participants had normal or corrected-to-normal vision and were native English speakers. AND ABSTRACT WORDS 401 These mean strengths are highly similar to those used by Bleasdale (1987) in his comparison of concrete and abstract words. and 80 pronounceable word-nonword pairs. Additionally. Sample stimuli used in Experiment 3 Condition Related Abstract-abstract easy/hard virtue/truth wisdom/knowledge answer/response mastery/expert Emotion-emotion happy/sad delighted/thrilled affectionate/caring glad/pleased regret/remorse Abstract-emotion busy/preoccupied honor/pride chaos/crazy soft/sensitive wealth/greed Emotion-abstract aggressive/forceful zealous/over indifferent/same rage/violence confident/strong Unrelated wide/hard struggle/truth turn/knowledge effort/response beside/expert interested/sad neglected/thrilled indecisive/caring isolated/pleased bewildered/remorse apart/preoccupied join/pride protected/crazy grow/sensitive scheme/greed puzzled/forceful terrible/over selfish/same sentimental/violence hopeless/strong . Participants Eighty University at Albany students participated for fulfillment of a course requirement. Table 4 lists sample stimuli. 80 pronounceable word-nonword pairs. Each target was then recombined with an unrelated prime. Materials and apparatus Two lists were created. The unrelated word pairs in the first list and the related word pairs in the second list Table 4. 20 pairs in each of the four conditions.

MSE= 3.05. All primes and targets were presented in white lowercase letters on a black background. a mask of "#"s appeared.715. This experiment was created using Micro Experimental Laboratory (MEL) psychology software (Schneider. Table 5 displays the mean reaction times. and a target would appear. . There was also a significant main effect of target. a mask. 79) = 26. The stimuli within the lists were randomized with the exception that no more than three consecutive word pairs were of the same word pair condition.001 and a significant main effect of relationship.000 ms to indicate whether the target was a word or a nonword before the next trial began.85. Emotion words were responded to more slowly than abstract words (755 ms vs. The participants had 2. F(1. F (1. Immediately after the prime. First. a fixation point ("+") appeared in the center of the computer screen for 1.500 ms.001.500 ms as a pretrial warning.05). ps < . Also. MSE= 4. p < . A typical trial proceeded as follows. Participants were informed that both speed and accuracy were important.98. no significant priming was found in the other heterogeneous word pair condition (EA. unrelated word pairs resulted in longer response latencies than related word pairs (762 ms vs. There was a significant prime x target x relationship interaction. 1990). respectively. F(1. The experiment was presented on a crystal scan monitor interfaced with an IBM-PCcomputer. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Participant reaction times were excluded from the analysis if they were less than 200 ms or greater than 1. p > .500 ms. Participants were shown 160 experimental trials and were given a brief rest period between the first and second block.94. Planned comparisons revealed significant facilitation and overall priming in the homogeneous word pair conditions (AA and EE). 737 ms). a prime. MSE= 5.97.71. p < .117. However. and percentage error for Experiment 3.157. a prime word appeared in the center of the screen for 125 ms. priming. 1988. Their task was to indicate whether the target was a word or a nonword by pressing either the "m"key or the "z"key. 79) = 5.05). and in one of the heterogeneous word pair conditions (AE. Each prime word and each target word was presented only once within a list.402 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER appeared in the same serial position across the two lists.41. The practice trial conditions were proportionally equivalent to those of the experimental trials. 732 ms). Procedure Participants read instructions indicating that they would be participating in a lexical decision task in which a fixation point. Next. p < . A 2 (prime) x 2 (target) x 2 (relationship) repeated-measures analysis of variance was conducted. The mask appeared in the center of the screen for 50 ms and was matched in length to the longest word in the experiment. 79) = 15. A typical session lasted approximately 25 min. Immediately after the presentation of the mask a target appeared for 1.

Experiment 1 demonstrated that emotion words are more readily recalled from a list . Abstract-abstract 754 2. There were more errors when the targets were emotion words (M = 0.0% Emotion-emotion 740 776 3. priming. no further analyses on the error data were conducted. Experiment 3 mean reaction times (ms). There are several ways in which these results can be interpreted.0% Emotion-abstract 738 749 3.e. Specifically.0% 3. GENERAL DISCUSSION The experiments presented here were designed to investigate whether emotion words possess distinct attributes. these findings suggest that the significant facilitation and overall priming in the homogeneous word pair conditions reflects automatic processing rather than strategic processing.00..01. the lack of priming for the heterogeneous word pair condition (EA) suggests that asymmetric priming is occurring.0% +46* +36* +11 +24* Error analysis A 2 (prime) x 2 (target) x 2 (relationship) analysis of variance on the error data was conducted.0% 708 2.11. There was a main effect of target. MSE= 0. Therefore. and percentage error Prime-target relationship Related Unrelated Priming effect M Error M Error M Error M Error *p < .03) than when the targets were abstract words (M 0.05.0% 4. It may be that abstract and emotion words possess different attributes or are mentally represented differently. 79) = 8. However.0% Abstract-emotion 743 767 2.02). a mask was used). Further investigation showed that there were no speed-accuracy = trade-offs because participants were both slower to respond and less accurate for word pairs with emotion targets.0% 2. Because the prime was constrained in this experiment (i. AND ABSTRACT WORDS 403 Table 5. p < .EMOTION. CONCRETE. F(1.

the time to judge the abstract nouns was slightly but not significantly shorter than the time to . A significant interaction between scale type and word type was observed. and context availability. A priming paradigm was used in Experiment 3 to investigate the mental representation of emotion words. the time to judge abstract nouns was significantly shorter than the time to judge concrete nouns. these factors influence how these two word types are processed. emotion words were rated as being easier to image and as being easier to access an appropriate context for than abstractwords. and context availability scales. When concrete nouns were preceded by abstract nouns (AC). An explanation of how abstract and concrete words may be processed differently was explored by Kroll and Merves (1986). The results of Experiment 3 revealed that the order of presentation influenced the speed and accuracy of lexical decisions. When abstract nouns were preceded by concrete nouns (CA). Experiment 2 further examined the nature of emotion words in memory by comparing the ratings of the three word types (abstract. In Kroll and Merves's Experiment 3 participants were presented with either two blocks of concrete nouns preceding two blocks of abstract nouns or two blocks of abstract nouns preceding two blocks of concrete nouns. Each block included 25 nouns and 25 pseudoword distractors. and concrete words that were matched in frequency and length. These results may be explained by differences in the lexical processing or mental representation of abstract and emotion words. imageability. concrete. indicating that there is a difference between all three word types on each of the three scales. These results resemble those found in Bleasdale's (1987) Experiment 3 for concrete and abstract words. Homogeneous (AA and EE) and heterogeneous (AE and EA) word pair conditions were presented to participants in a lexical decision task. Kroll and Merves (1986) conducted a series of experiments to compare the speed and accuracy of lexical decisions for concrete and abstract nouns. abstract. It may be that because abstract and emotion words differ significantly on concreteness. Emotion words were rated the lowest on the concreteness scale.404 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER containing emotion. when rated on concreteness. Aspects of those emotion words produced greater memorability in later recall. As hypothesized. Emotion words were rated lower than concrete words on the imageability and context availability scales. and emotion) on concreteness. as compared with the other two word types. imageability. imageability. and context availability they are different from abstract and concrete words. The results revealed a significant 2 (prime) x 2 (target) x 2 (relationship) interaction and significant priming in the homogeneous word pairs (AA and EE) and in the heterogeneous AE word pair condition. These results indicate that although emotion words have often been included in the abstract stimuli in the literature.

AND ABSTRACT WORDS 405 judge the concrete nouns. 1975. but the strategy adopted for processing emotion words is not suitable for processing subsequent abstract words. therefore. so recognition is negatively affected. One explanation was that the opportunity to process the nouns in separate blocks led to a change in response strategy. the source concept. However. Could it be that presentation order also influences the processing of emotion and abstract primes and targets? It is plausible that participants are adopting a perceptual referent (or a contextual information) implicit response strategy when emotion primes are presented. This strategy is suitable for processing subsequent emotion targets but not subsequent abstract targets. When a person is presented with a stimulus. A second way of explaining the results obtained in Experiment 3 focuses on the representation of emotion words in a semantic network model. activation spreads from it to concepts associated with it. According to research on the semantic representation of concepts. when the abstract blocks are presented after the presentation of the concrete blocks. both the strength and the number of paths associated with a concept are important in the retrieval of information (Anderson. so recognition is adversely affected. Rather than responding to whether the stimulus was a real word or a pseudoword. if concrete words are processed first. the lack of concreteness effects should not be of any concern. However. whereas the emotionabstract word pair condition did not. the perceptual referent response strategy is not useful for responding to the abstract stimuli. 1974. Is it not possible that words are being processed differently regardless of whether concreteness effects are present? For example. In Experiment 3 the abstract-emotion word pair condition showed significant priming. It is important to note here that Experiment 2 illustrated that emotion words are rated significantly higher than abstract words on both imageability and context availabilityscales. In this example only one type of processing is used for each word type. Collins & Loftus. This may have occurred because the strategy used for processing abstract words is suitable for processing subsequent emotion words. they may be processed by a verbal representation response strategy that is suitable for the concrete blocks that follow. Kroll and Merves later dismissed this explanation after analyzing the recall data and finding no residual concreteness effects. CONCRETE. de Groot. the participants were responding to whether the stimuli had perceptual referents.EMOTION. Kroll and Merves provided several possible explanations for these results. if abstract words are presented first. 1989). When abstract targets are preceded by emotion primes. a suitable response strategy is not available. This explanation can account for the results of Experiment 3. there is a limitation on the amount of activa- . Conversely. participants may adopt a perceptual referent response strategy that will aid in accurate responses.

1987) or the circumplex model of emotions (Russell. 1980. it is possible that emotion words have more paths than abstract words. and emotion words was investigated in a normative study conducted by the authors (Altarriba et al.whereas the word sad is on the negative side. the more difficult it is to retrieve the information along any one of these paths. emotion words had the greatest number of associations (M = 23. The mean number of associations for each word type was then calculated. abstract.. On average. the more activation the associated concept receives from the source node and subsequently the easier it is to retrieve information along this path. Anderson (1974) found that the more paths are associated with a source concept. The that there words and sad beshould be no priming for the predict happy cause the word happyis located in a subordinate category in a different cluster than the word sad. These results are consistent with the aforementioned interpretation of the observed priming effects. 1999). An abstract word such as hour does not have as many synonyms and antonyms. 1989). the results of Experiment 3 do not support the predictions of either model. The stronger the path between the source node and an associated concept. For example.The higher rating on context availabilitymay indicate that emotion words are associated with more contexts than abstractwords.and glad and an antonym sad. pleased. Because .ecstatic. However. and the word happyis on the positive side of the multilevel hierarchy.. The circumplex model predicts that emotion words stored closer together should show more priming than words stored further apart. The hierarchical model predicts that words in a cluster should prime each other more than words across clusters.406 ALTARRIBA AND BAUER tion that can be spread from a source. Emotion words may have more synonyms and antonyms than abstract words. the word happyhas synonyms such as delighted. Additionally. Planned comparisons revealed that the mean number of associations for all of the word types were significantly different from each other (all ps < . In this study. followed by abstract words (M= 21.34). The number of associations generated for each stimulus was tabulated. participants were instructed to write beside a stimulus word the first word that came to mind that was meaningfully related to the stimulus word.48). emotion words are rated higher than abstract words on imageability and context availability. In Experiment 3 the strength of the word pairs was held constant. The number of paths departing from a concept node for concrete. Both the hierarchical and the circumplex model would predict that the emotion words and delighted and sad would show more priming than the words happy happy because happyand delighted are located much closer (and in the same subordinate level in the subcategory labeled cheerfulness) than happy and sad are located in hierarchical model (which may even separate clusters).40) and then concrete words (M= 17.05). Although there was no intention to directly test either the hierarchical model of emotions (Shaver et al.

. L. and context availability relative to both abstract and concrete words. The semantic network model predicts facilitation for emotion words that are highly associated regardless of where in the hierarchical model they are located and their and high-low arousal dimenposition on the pleasantness-unpleasantness sions of the circumplex model. but emotion words do not prime abstract words (EA). Concreteness. & Benvenuto. AND ABSTRACT WORDS 407 priming occurs for antonyms (as was observed in Experiment 3). and less likely to activate a context than concrete words.edu). BehaviorResearch 31.. a semantic network model of emotion appears to be more useful in the representation of emotion than either of the other two models. and imageability ratings and word associations for abstract. Methods. Neely and Douglas L. Received for publication April 4. NY 12222 (e-mail:ja087@albany. and emotion words. 2003. Chicago. State University of New York. M. Correspondence about this article should be sent toJeanette Altarriba.Department of Psychology. the present data show that emotion words are more memorable and more readily recalled than concrete and abstract words. University at Albany.M. References Altarriba. emotion words and abstract words prime associated words of the same type (AA and EE). Portions of this paper were presented at the 37th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society. 2003.. Albany. Notes We would like to thank Allyse Scher for her assistance with data collection. These results are consistent with the predictions of the semantic activation model and are inconsistent with the predictions of the circumplex and hierarchical network models. The results also indicate that the concepts represented by emotion words activate different levels of concreteness. C. when operating under automatic lexical processing.J. IL. context-availability. less concrete.A.B. and portions of these data were submitted in partial fulfillment of the master of arts degree in psychology by L. We are also grateful for the comments and suggestions ofJames H. Bauer.Instruments. 578-602. This work was funded through a faculty research award granted to J. imageability. In conclusion. the results indicate that concepts represented by emotion words are more imageable and are easier to think of a context for than abstract words but are less concrete than abstract words. They are less imageable. Specifically. (1999). revision received September 1. Additionally. and abstract words prime emotion words (AE).EMOTION. CONCRETE. SS 369.. these results indicate that the concepts represented by emotion words are characteristically different from and activate different relationships than abstract words. Taken together. Nelson on an earlier version of this manuscript.& Computers. concrete.

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