What’s in a Word? Language Constructs Emotion Perception

Emotion Review 5 (1):66-71 (2013)
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In this review, we highlight evidence suggesting that concepts represented in language are used to create a perception of emotion from the constant ebb and flow of other people’s facial muscle movements. In this “construction hypothesis,” (cf. Gendron, Lindquist, Barsalou, & Barrett, 2012) (see also Barrett, 2006b; Barrett, Lindquist, & Gendron, 2007; Barrett, Mesquita, & Gendron, 2011), language plays a constitutive role in emotion perception because words ground the otherwise highly variable instances of an emotion category. We demonstrate that language plays a constitutive role in emotion perception by discussing findings from behavior, neuropsychology, development, and neuroimaging. We close by discussing implications of a constructionist view for the science of emotion



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