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Randomized Controlled Trial
. 2012;7(5):e36042.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036042. Epub 2012 May 9.

Font Size Matters--Emotion and Attention in Cortical Responses to Written Words

Free PMC article
Randomized Controlled Trial

Font Size Matters--Emotion and Attention in Cortical Responses to Written Words

Mareike Bayer et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


For emotional pictures with fear-, disgust-, or sex-related contents, stimulus size has been shown to increase emotion effects in attention-related event-related potentials (ERPs), presumably reflecting the enhanced biological impact of larger emotion-inducing pictures. If this is true, size should not enhance emotion effects for written words with symbolic and acquired meaning. Here, we investigated ERP effects of font size for emotional and neutral words. While P1 and N1 amplitudes were not affected by emotion, the early posterior negativity started earlier and lasted longer for large relative to small words. These results suggest that emotion-driven facilitation of attention is not necessarily based on biological relevance, but might generalize to stimuli with arbitrary perceptual features. This finding points to the high relevance of written language in today's society as an important source of emotional meaning.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. ERP effects of emotion and size.
(A) Grand mean ERP waveforms for positive, neutral, and negative words of small and large size, collapsed over posterior EPN (ROI) electrodes. Scalp distributions show differences between emotional (positive and negative) and neutral words at indicated time intervals. (B) Grand means at centroparietal LPC electrodes and topographies of the late posterior complex as difference between emotional and neutral words in the indicated time range. (C) Effects of stimulus size on grand means over posterior EPN electrodes and scalp distribution of difference waves between large and small words in the time interval of the early posterior negativity. (D) Grand means for small and large words at centroparietal LPC electrodes and scalp distributions of difference ERPs between large and small words in the interval of the late positive complex.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Mean EPN and LPC amplitudes.
Mean amplitudes and Standard Errors of EPN and LPC separately for each emotion category and size conditions.

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