Bayer, M. Sommer, S. and Schacht, A. (2012). Font size matters—Emotion and attention in cortical responses to written words. PLoS ONE, 7(5): e36042. 1–6. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036042
For emotional pictures with fear-, disgust-, or sex-related contents, stimulus size has been shown to increase emotion effects in attention-related event-related potentials (ERPs), presumably reflecting the enhanced biological impact of larger emotion-inducing pictures. If this is true, size should not enhance emotion effects for written words with symbolic and acquired meaning. Here, we investigated ERP effects of font size for emotional and neutral words. While P1 and N1 amplitudes were not affected by emotion, the early posterior negativity started earlier and lasted longer for large relative to small words. These results suggest that emotion-driven facilitation of attention is not necessarily based on biological relevance, but might generalize to stimuli with arbitrary perceptual features. This finding points to the high relevance of written language in today’s society as an important source of emotional meaning.
Put simply, an ERP is a spike or dip in electrical activity in the brain. Below is a photo of a participant I ran in an EEG/eye-tracking study. Note the “bullseye” sticker above her left eye. That is actually there for our new headless eye-tracker — http://www.sr-research.com/EL_1000.html . With this setup, we can now monitor eye movements and brain activity at the same time. Very cool.