Emotions, unconscious processes, and the right hemisphere

Guido Gainotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the classical Babinski's (1914) observation of lack of awareness ("anosognosia") for a left-sided hemiplegia, the problem of the mechanisms underlying this surprising phenomenon has been raised. Most authors have stressed the links between right hemisphere and emotional processes, considering anosognosia as an abnormal emotional reaction, caused by disruption of the side of the brain crucially involved in emotional behavior. Theoretically motivated models of hemispheric asymmetries in emotional processing have proposed either a right-hemisphere dominance for specific components of emotions, or a different involvement of the right and left hemispheres in different levels of emotional processing. Following the last line of thought, we have proposed that the right hemisphere may subserve the lower "schematic" level (where emotions are automatically generated and experienced as "true emotions) and the left hemisphere the higher "conceptual" level (where emotions are consciously analyzed and submitted to an intentional control). In agreement with this model, recent empirical data strongly suggest that the right hemisphere might play a major role in the automatic, unconscious generation of emotions, whereas the left hemisphere could be mainly involved in the conscious analysis and control of emotional processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neuroscience(all)

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