Sensation and emotion: Linguistic manifestations of affective differentiation in sensory modalities

Yin Zhong, Kathleen Ahrens

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Human sensory and emotional systems contribute to cognitive processing in reflecting internal bodily experiences and representing the external world. A proliferation of behavioral and neurological studies has tapped into the effects of sensorimotor and affective information in semantic processing (e.g., Newcombe et al., 2012; Pulvermüller, 2005). Despite that considerable evidence of recruiting sensorimotor mechanisms in language comprehension has been posited, the interaction between sensorimotor and affective systems coded in semantic processing is still an underexplored topic. It is also important to note that emotions are weighed differently across sensory modalities—taste and smell are claimed to be the most “emotional senses” (Mantel et al., 2021). This neurological finding is further attested in the English lexical repository, given that taste and smell lexicons were found to contain more emotional contents than the lexicons of other senses (Winter, 2016).

This study aggregated perceptual strengths across six sensory channels (i.e., vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and interoception) (Zhong et al., 2022) into affective ratings (i.e., valence and arousal) (Xu et al., 2021) to investigate the interaction between sensory modalities and emotional valence-arousal dimensions in Chinese. Our findings suggested that smell and interoception, considered the two sensations directly linked to emotional processing, are more emotional and can elicit higher arousal levels than words associated with other senses. This study demonstrates the differentiation of emotional information across different sensory modalities and provides further insights into the interplay between sensation and emotion as manifested in the language.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
EventThe 30th Joint Workshop on Linguistics and Language Processing -
Duration: 26 Mar 2022 → …


ConferenceThe 30th Joint Workshop on Linguistics and Language Processing
Period26/03/22 → …


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