Language allows us to operate more efficiently in the world. By hearing about others’ experiences, we are able to orient toward things that could be beneficial to us, and avoid hazards. This sharing of experiences is particularly prominent in the social realm. Using a binocular rivalry paradigm, Anderson et al. (2011) showed that short “gossip” phrases modulated the length of time faces remained perceptually dominant. However, binocular rivalry is measured by self-report. We used EEG to investigate the timing of gossip’s early effect on face perception. Gossip stimuli were those used by Anderson et al. (2011), translated to Danish. Neutral faces were taken from the PUT database (Kasiński et al., 2008). Participants (n=30) viewed each face together with the gossip stimuli a total of six times. Following this encoding period, 32 channels of EEG were recorded while participants viewed the faces mixed with unfamiliar faces, and performed a distracter task. A post-test checked participants’ memory of the individual faces. We hypothesized that negative gossip would modulate the face-sensitive N170 component at electrodes P7 and P8. No differences were observed in the N170, and no memory effect was found. However, a secondary analysis showed that an even earlier left-lateralized component, the P1, was modulated by negative gossip stimuli. Supporting the results of Anderson et al. (2011), we found that linguistic information modulates early processing of faces. Although the N170 appears impervious to the influence of gossip, an effect of negative social information was measured at 100 ms. after stimulus onset.
Social Cognition; Event-Related Potentials; Language
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Society for the Neurobiology of Language Conference 2012