Neural correlates of processing emotions in words across cultures

Peiyao Chen, Bingle Chen, Thomas F. Münte, Chunming Lu, Li Liu, Taomei Guo*

*Corresponding author for this work


Culture influences its individuals’ behaviors in a subtle yet effective way. While the physical experience of emotions is largely biologically determined, emotion perception and processing can still be culturally specific. The present study investigates the neural mechanisms that underlie emotion processing and experience in two cultures. Participants from Eastern and Western cultures performed a lexical decision task on positive and negative words, along with pseudowords. While the two groups’ behavioral response to emotional words did not differ, Eastern participants showed greater activation in the left cerebellum and thalamus when processing positive words, and in the right precuneus and the left superior parietal lobe when processing negative words as compared to Western participants. These neural activation patterns suggest that Eastern participants use more emotion regulation and control than Western participants. In contrast, Western participants showed increased activation in the right amygdala and the medial frontal gyrus, suggesting enhanced emotional experience and evaluation. These findings suggest that emotion experience and processing are influenced by cultural norms and values.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 08.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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