Verbalization has regulatory influences on autonomic activity during recall of unpleasant experience
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CitationRantanen, Antti. Laukka, Seppo. Siipo, Antti. Tiinanen, Suvi. Tarvainen, Mika P. Kortelainen, Jukka. Lehtihalmes, Matti. Seppänen, Tapio. (2021). Verbalization has regulatory influences on autonomic activity during recall of unpleasant experience. Speech communication, 126, 10.1016/j.specom.2020.11.002.
The purpose of the study was to examine effects of verbalization of affective experience on heart-rate variability and emotions (HRV). We measured HRV of 35 subjects while they were viewing and verbalizing 48 affective pictures (IAPS). Our results showed that sympathetic activity was lower and parasympathetic activity higher when subjects were verbalizing unpleasant pictures than it was when they were verbalizing pleasant pictures. To the best of our knowledge similar findings have not been earlier reported. Our results suggest that: 1. the effect of verbalization on heart-rate variability is determined by the valence of the stimuli and 2. verbalization has regulatory influences on autonomic activity during recall of unpleasant experiences. The effect of verbalization on subjects’ HRV and emotions can perhaps be best explained with unified exposure and regulatory effects that are facilitated by the reporting task of unpleasant stimuli. Active and intentional focus on unpleasant stimuli prevents avoidant behaviour by exposing subjects to unpleasant contents and language processing dampens subjects’ autonomic activity via amygdaloid-hypothalamic connections.