Unconscious processing of emotions and the right hemisphere

Guido Gainotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This survey takes into account the unconscious aspects of emotions and the critical role played in them by the right hemisphere, considering different acceptations of the term 'unconscious'. In a preliminary step, the nature of emotions, their componential and hierarchical organization and the relationships between emotions and hemispheric specialization are shortly discussed, then different aspects of emotions are surveyed: first are reviewed studies dealing with the unconscious processing of emotional information, taking separately into account various lines of research. All these studies suggest that unconscious processing of emotional information is mainly subsumed by a right hemisphere subcortical route, through which emotional stimuli quickly reach the amygdala. We afterwards inquire if a right hemisphere dominance can also be observed in automatic emotional action schemata and if 'non-removed preverbal implicit memories' also have a preferential link with the right hemisphere. Finally, we try to evaluate if the right hemisphere may also play a critical role in dynamic unconscious phenomena, such as anosognosia/denial of hemiplegia in patients with unilateral brain lesions. In the last part of the review, the reasons that could subsume the right hemisphere dominance for unconscious emotions are shortly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-218
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • Emotional action schemata
  • Non-removed unconscious memories
  • Right hemisphere dominance for emotions
  • Subcortical route to the right amygdala
  • Unconscious emotional processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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