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Effects of Trait Anxiety on Threatening Speech Processing: Implications for Models of Emotional Language and Anxiety

Busch Moreno, Simon; (2020) Effects of Trait Anxiety on Threatening Speech Processing: Implications for Models of Emotional Language and Anxiety. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Speech can convey emotional meaning through different channels, two are regarded as particularly relevant in models of emotional language: prosody and semantics. These have been widely studied in terms of their production and processing aspects, but sometimes overlooking individual differences of listeners. The present thesis examines whether greater intrinsic levels of anxiety can affect threatening speech processing. Trait anxiety is the predisposition to increased cognitions such as worry (over-thinking of the future), and emotions such as angst (felling of discomfort and tension), and can be reflected by an overactive behavioural inhibition system. As a result, according to emotional language and anxiety models, emotional prosody/semantics and anxiety might have overlapping neural areas/routes and processing phases. Thus, threatening semantics or prosody could have differential effects on trait anxiety depending on the nature of this overlap. This problem is approached by using behavioural and electroencephalographic (EEG) measures. Three dichotic listening experiments demonstrate that, at the behavioural level, trait anxiety does not modulate lateralisation when stimuli convey threatening prosody, threatening semantics or both. However, these and another non-dichotic experiment indicate that greater anxiety induces substantially slower responses. An EEG experiment shows that this phenomenon has very clear neural signature at late processing phases (~600ms). Exploratory source localisation analyses indicate involvement of areas predicted by the models, including portions of limbic, temporal and prefrontal cortex. The proposed explanation is that threatening speech can induce anxious people to over-engage with stimuli, and this disrupts late-phase processes associated with orientation/deliberation, as proposed by anxiety models. This process is independent of information type until later phase occurring after speech comprehension (e.g. response preparation/execution). Given this, a new model of threatening language processing is proposed, which extends models of emotional language processing by incorporating an orientation/deliberation phase from anxiety models.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Effects of Trait Anxiety on Threatening Speech Processing: Implications for Models of Emotional Language and Anxiety
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118404
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