The effects of emotional stimuli on Word retrieval in people with aphasia

Deena Schwen Blackett, Joan C. Borod, Shari R. Speer, Xueliang Pan, Stacy M. Harnish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Prior studies have shown that people with aphasia (PWA) have demonstrated superior language performance for emotional compared to nonemotional stimuli on a range of tasks, including auditory comprehension, verbal pragmatics, repetition, reading, and writing. However, studies on word retrieval, specifically, have suggested a possible interference effect of emotion on naming. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the emotional valence of stimuli on word retrieval in a series of naming tasks in PWA. Method: Thirteen PWA and 13 neurotypical controls participated in four single-word naming tasks, including 1) object picture naming, 2) action picture naming, 3) category-member generation, and 4) verb generation. Each task included three valence sets of positively-, negatively-, and neutrally-rated pictures or words, which were obtained from the standardized International Affective Picture System (Lang et al., 2008) and the Affective Norms for Emotional Words (Bradley and Lang, 1999) databases. Accuracy and reaction time (RT) were measured and compared across groups, tasks, and valence sets. Results: Emotional stimuli, especially negative stimuli, resulted in worse naming performance, as measured by accuracy and RT, compared to nonemotional stimuli in PWA and neurotypical controls. This effect was relatively robust across the four naming tasks. In most cases, negative stimuli resulted in lower accuracy and slower RT than positive stimuli. Conclusions: These findings suggest that stimulus valence may interfere with word retrieval for PWA and neurotypical adults and that this effect is robust across different types of naming tasks that vary by word class (nouns versus verbs) and stimulus type (pictures versus words). Negative stimuli resulted in worse naming performance than positive stimuli. These results suggest that emotionality of stimuli is an important variable to consider in word retrieval research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108734
StatePublished - 10 Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Aphasia
  • Emotion
  • Naming
  • Valence
  • Word retrieval


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