How negative insults can trigger a mini slap to the face
"The exact way in which words can deliver their offensive, emotionally negative payload at the moment these words are being read or heard is not yet well-understood," said corresponding author Dr Marijn Struiksma, of Utrecht University.
Because insults pose a threat against our reputation and against our 'self', they provide a unique opportunity to research the interface between language and emotion. Struiksma continued:
"Understanding what an insulting expression does to people as it unfolds, and why, is of considerable importance to psycholinguists interested in how language moves people, but also to others who wish to understand the details of social behavior."
EEG and skin conductance electrodes were applied to 79 female participants. They then read a series of repeated statements that realized three different speech acts: insults (for example, "Linda is horrible"), compliments (for example, "Linda is impressive"), and neutral, factually correct descriptive statements (for example, "Linda is Dutch").
To examine whether the impact of the words depended on who the statement was about, half of the three sets of statements used the participant's own name, and the other half used somebody else's. The experiment involved no real interaction between the participants and another human. The participants were told that the statements were being said by three different men.
The researchers found that even under unnatural conditions a lab-setting, no real human interactions, and statements coming from fictitious people-verbal insults can still "get at you", no matter who the insult is about, and continue to do so even after repetition.
Specifically, the EEG showed an early insult effect in P2 amplitude that was very robust over repetition and did not depend on who the insult was about. P2 is a waveform component of the event-related potential (ERP) measured at the human scalp.
Reference:(rest will be updated soon)10.3389/fcomm.2022.910023
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed