Syllogisms delivered in an angry voice lead to improved performance and engagement of a different neural system compared to neutral voice

Kathleen W. Smith, Laura Lee Balkwill, Oshin Vartanian, Vinod Goel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite the fact that most real-world reasoning occurs in some emotional context, very little is known about the underlying behavioral and neural implications of such context. To further understand the role of emotional context in logical reasoning we scanned 15 participants with fMRI while they engaged in logical reasoning about neutral syllogisms presented through the auditory channel in a sad, angry, or neutral tone of voice. Exposure to angry voice led to improved reasoning performance compared to exposure to sad and neutral voice. A likely explanation for this effect is that exposure to expressions of anger increases selective attention toward the relevant features of target stimuli, in this case the reasoning task. Supporting this interpretation, reasoning in the context of angry voice was accompanied by activation in the superior frontal gyrus—a region known to be associated with selective attention. Our findings contribute to a greater understanding of the neural processes that underlie reasoning in an emotional context by demonstrating that two emotional contexts, despite being of the same (negative) valence, have different effects on reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number273
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume9
Issue numberMAY
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 12 2015

Keywords

  • Anger
  • Auditory
  • Emotion
  • fMRI
  • Reasoning
  • Sadness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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