Recent research has suggested that emotional sentences are understood by constructing an emotion simulation of the events being described. The present study aims to investigate whether emotion simulation is also involved in online and offline comprehension of larger language segments such as discourse. Participants read a target text describing positive events while their facial postures were manipulated to be either congruent (matching condition) or incongruent (mismatching condition) with emotional valence of the text. In addition, a control condition was included in which participants read the text naturally (without a manipulation of facial posture). The influence of emotion simulation on discourse understanding was assessed by online (self-paced reading times) and offline (verbatim and inference questions) measures of comprehension. The major result was that participants read faster the target text describing positive emotional events while their bodily systems were prepared for processing of positive emotions (matching condition) rather than unprepared (control condition) or prevented from positive emotional processing (mismatching condition). Simulation of positive emotions did not have a significant impact on offline explicit and implicit discourse comprehension. This pattern of results suggests that emotion simulation has an impact on online comprehension, but may not have any effect on offline discourse processing.

Open Access