According to embodied theories, the symbols used by language are meaningful because they are grounded in perception, action, and emotion. In contrast, according to abstract symbol theories, meaning arises from the syntactic combination of abstract, amodal symbols. If language is grounded in internal bodily states, then one would predict that emotion affects language. Consistent with this, advocates of embodied theories propose a strong link between emotion and language [Havas, D., Glenberg, A. M., & Rinck, M. Emotion simulation during language comprehension. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 436–441, 2007; Niedenthal, P. M. Embodying emotion. Science, 316, 1002–1005, 2007]. The goal of this study was to test abstract symbol vs. embodied views of language by investigating whether mood affects semantic processing. To this aim, we induced different emotional states (happy vs. sad) by presenting film clips that displayed fragments from a happy movie or a sad movie. The clips were presented before and during blocks of sentences in which the cloze probability of mid-sentence critical words varied (high vs. low). Participants read sentences while ERPs were recorded. The mood induction procedure was successful: Participants watching the happy film clips scored higher on a mood scale than those watching the sad clips. For N400, mood by cloze probability interactions were obtained. The N400 cloze effect was strongly reduced in the sad mood compared with the happy mood condition. Furthermore, a difference in late positivity was only present for the sad mood condition. The mood by semantic processing interaction observed for N400 supports embodied theories of meaning and challenges abstract symbol theories that assume that processing of word meaning reflects a modular process.

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