How valence affects language processing: Negativity bias and mood congruence in narrative comprehension

This research examines how positive and negative moods affect readers’ understanding of positive and negative story endings. It demonstrates how negativity bias and mood congruence emerge during narrative comprehension. Participants were induced to experience a positive or a negative mood and then read stories that could have either a positive or a negative ending. In Experiment 1, participants took longer to integrate negative endings than positive endings independent of their mood. In Experiment 2, participants judged as more surprising those endings that did not match their mood. These results illustrate that ending valence has strong influence on moment-by-moment reading, but readers’ mood influences expectations for story outcomes once readers reflect on a complete representation of the story.   paper

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Last updated November 2009