When unpleasantness meets feminines: a behavioural study on gender agreement and emotionality

Cognition and Emotion (forthcoming)
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Abstract

The emotional connotation of words is known to affect word and sentence processing. However, the when and how of the interaction between emotion and grammar are still up for debate. In this behavioural experiment, 35 female university students read noun phrases (NPs) composed by a determiner and a noun in their L1 (Spanish), and were asked to indicate if the NPs were grammatically correct (elmasc camareromasc) or not (*lafem tornillomasc; i.e. a gender agreement task). The type of gender (arbitrary/natural), the emotionality (unpleasant/neutral), and the gender class (feminine/masculine) of the nouns were manipulated. We found an overall grammaticality effect, responses being faster in grammatically correct trials than in incorrect ones. However, the effects of emotionality and gender class varied depending on gender type. For arbitrary gender, the grammaticality effect was greater in feminine nouns than in masculine nouns and independent of emotionality. For natural gender, the grammaticality effect interacted with gender class and emotionality, this effect only emerging in unpleasant stimuli for feminine nouns. Our results reveal that it is possible to find emotional effects at the behavioural level in an intrinsically grammatical task. Yet, these effects depend on gender properties like the type of gender and the gender class.

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