Research Article: Differences in the emotional conflict task between individuals with high and low social adjustment: An ERP study

Date Published: June 12, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Yuan-Yan Hu, Jun-Cheng Zhu, Ying Ge, Wen-Bo Luo, Tian-Tian Liu, Xi Pu, Kiyoshi Nakahara.

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217962

Abstract

To investigate the emotional conflict processing during the processing of emotional stimuli in individuals with different levels of social adjustment through developing an event-related potential (ERP) method, the study used positive words (happy), negative words (disgusted), positive faces and negative faces as experimental materials for a face-word Stroop emotional conflict task, which was completed by 34 participants. For the N2 component, there was a significant difference between the high and low social adjustment groups for the congruent condition; the low social adjustment group evoked more negative amplitude under the congruent condition. Under the incongruent condition, there was a marginally significant difference between the high and low social adjustment groups; the low social adjustment group evoked more negative amplitude under the incongruent condition. For the SP component, there were no significant differences for both the high and low social adjustment group between the congruent and incongruent conditions of emotional conflict. However, within the low social adjustment group, the incongruent evoked more positive amplitude. Our findings indicate that the difference in the emotional conflict process between individuals with high and low social adjustment mainly lies in the early processing stages of emotional information. That is, for both congruent and incongruent emotional stimuli, individuals with high social adjustment showed better emotional conflict monitoring, used less cognitive resources, and had a higher degree of automated processing than those with low social adjustment. During the later stages of emotional conflict processing, individuals with low social adjustment showed poorer conflict processing.

Partial Text

Social adjustment refers to the strong need and desire for individuals within a social environment to achieve social harmony [1, 2]. Social adjustment is not only a key condition in the measurement of an individual’s psychological maturity, it is also an important indicator for the measurement of their social maturity [3]. For instance, such social phenomena as irony in speech, satire, courtesy laugh are all examples of emotional conflicts with negative [4] and positive emotion stimuli [5]. Therefore, the ability to correctly identify the true meaning of irony etc. is crucial for successful social interactions and may be directly relevant to social adjustment. Furthermore, understanding the psychological and behavioral features of social adjustment in individuals will enable us to further elucidate its internal characteristics and patterns of development.

The participants were informed of the study objectives before the experiment, and had given then written informed consent. This study had been approved by the Ethics Committee of the Institute of Education, Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences.

ERPs were employed in this study to investigate the cognitive features and temporal characteristics of brain activity in individuals with different social adjustment levels when performing an emotional conflict task. Our behavioral results indicate that the main effect of emotional conflict was significant, such that the RT of the congruent condition was significantly faster than the incongruent condition. This is consistent with existing results [6, 20, 33], thus indicating that our experimental manipulation was valid.

The difference in the emotional conflict process between individuals with high and low social adjustment mainly lies in the early processing stages of emotional information. That is, for both congruent and incongruent emotional stimuli, individuals with high social adjustment showed better emotional conflict monitoring, used less cognitive resources, and had higher degree of automated processing than those with low social adjustment. During the later stages of emotional conflict processing, individuals with low social adjustment showed poorer conflict processing.

On the one hand, this study adopted the congruency of emotion between faces and words to explore the cognitive features of individuals with high and low social adjustment for emotional conflict information. Subsequent studies can adopt more complex sequential congruency effects for further exploration. On the other hand, although ERPs have a high temporal resolution, there are limitations to their spatial resolution. Therefore, fMRI should be performed in future studies to further compare the spatial characteristics of brain activity between individuals with high and low social adjustment when performing the emotional conflict task.

 

Source:

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217962