Grammatical framing: does grammatical aspect influence emotions?
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Earlier studies suggest that grammatical aspect, a purely linguistic feature that expresses how events evolve over time, influences our representation of events in situation models (Magliano & Schleich, 2000; Madden & Zwaan, 2003) and that aspectual framing affects our impressions of others (Fausey & Matlock, 2011). If this effect transfers to decision making, aspectual framing can have profound consequences for the decisions we make every day, as well as for pivotal decisions in court and politics. As emotions guide us in decision-making processes (Damasio et al, 1996), the present study investigates the interaction between aspect and emotion. Progressive sentences are associated with incompletion and said to mentally stimulate internal processes of events (Bergen & Wheeler, 2010). This study therefore hypothesizes that progressive descriptions of negative situations evoke enhanced negative emotional activity. A pilot study is conducted, in which American English speakers report their emotions after reading stories with perfective or progressive descriptions of moral violations. The influence of grammatical aspect on decision-making is tested via approach/avoidance questions. The results of the present study seem to refute the hypothesis. The results show no significant differences between the experienced emotions in progressive and perfective conditions. A significant difference in decision-making was not found either. Several factors are discussed that may have affected the results and thus influenced the testing of the validity of the hypothesis. By doing so, this thesis sheds light on the interaction between the linguistic coding of events and emotions, directly, and decision-making indirectly.