Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The present study investigated the interaction of emotional prosody and word valence during emotional comprehension in men and women. In a prosody-word interference task, participants listened to positive, neutral, and negative words that were spoken with a happy, neutral, and angry prosody. Participants were asked to rate word valence while ignoring emotional prosody, or vice versa. Congruent stimuli were responded faster and more accurately as compared to incongruent emotional stimuli. This behavioral effect was more salient for the word valence task than for the prosodic task and was comparable between men and women. The event-related potentials (ERPs) revealed a smaller N400 amplitude for congruent as compared to emotionally incongruent stimuli. This ERP effect, however, was significant only for the word valence judgment and only for female listeners. The present data suggest that the word valence judgment was more difficult and more easily influenced by task-irrelevant emotional information than the prosodic task in both men and women. Furthermore, although emotional prosody and word valence may have a similar influence on an emotional judgment in both sexes, ERPs indicate sex differences in the underlying processing. Women, but not men, show an interaction between prosody and word valence during a semantic processing stage.