The effects of threatening stimuli, including threatening language, on trait anxiety have been widely studied. However, whether anxiety levels have a direct effect on language processing has not been so consistently explored. The present study focuses on event-related potential (ERP) patterns resulting from electroencephalographic (EEG) measurement of participants’ (n = 36) brain activity while they perform a dichotic listening task. Participants’ anxiety level was measured via a behavioural inhibition system scale (BIS). Later, participants listened to dichotically paired sentences, one neutral and the other threatening, and indicated at which ear they heard the threatening stimulus. Threatening sentences expressed threat semantically-only, prosodically-only, or both combined (congruent threat). ERPs showed a late positivity, interpreted as a late positive complex (LPC). Results from Bayesian hierarchical models provided strong support for an association between LPC and BIS score. This was interpreted as an effect of trait anxiety on deliberation processes, which provides evidence of a fourth processing phase of an originally three-phasic model of emotional language processing.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience