An EEG Exploration of Emotional Flexibility


  • Michelle Fitos Eötvös Loránd University
  • Raissa De Oliveira Negrao Eötvös Loránd University


Emotional flexibility refers to the ability to flexibly shift emotional responses according to environmental changes. Although there are several existing self-report measures which measure emotional flexibility, consistent and ecologically valid emotional flexibility paradigms are still lacking in the literature. There is an existing novel Emotional Shifting Task (EST) [1],  which is an online computer-based study empirically measuring emotional flexibility. The stimuli consist of an emotionally valenced pair of images, with a cropped segment displayed first and the full image afterward. The possible emotional valence combinations of the paired stimuli are pos-pos, neg-neg, pos- neg, and neg-pos.

In this study, the EST will be investigated using a modified oddball paradigm and electroencephalography (EEG). Participants will complete an EEG oddball task consisting of 4 practice trials and 300 experimental trials. After the participant responds whether they feel that the initial cropped image has a positive or negative valence, the full image is revealed, and the participant responds whether the second full-context image has a positive or negative valence. Response accuracy is shown to the participants, and reaction time is recorded for later analysis. In addition to the EEG portion of the study, participants will complete the 21-item Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21).

Based on the results from the original online study [1] and a follow-up fMRI study using the same cropped/full paired image paradigm [2], it is expected that activation will be greater when switching from a positive cropped photo to a negative full photo.  An existing study involving EEG and emotionally valenced photos [3] showed that the n170 seems to be the component that best matches processing of emotional valence as well as facial processing, and as our stimuli involve both faces and emotional valence, we expect to find that the n170 is the most relevant component. 

EEG data is being collected using a Mind Media NeXus-32 device, which is attached to a 21-channel cap.  Data collection is currently ongoing.  Out of a total of 300 expected participants, data from 29 participants has already been collected and pre-processed using EEGLAB. 


[1] B. Biro et al., “Interaction between emotional context-guided shifting and cognitive shifting: Introduction of a novel task,” Neuropsychopharmacologia Hungarica : a Magyar Pszichofarmakologiai Egyesulet lapja = official journal of the Hungarian Association of Psychopharmacology, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 319–330, Sep. 2021.

[2] B. Biró et al., “The neural correlates of context driven changes in the emotional response: An fmri study,” PLOS ONE, vol. 17, no. 12, 2022. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0279823

[3] R. Qiu, H. Wang, and S. Fu, “N170 reveals the categorical perception effect of emotional valence,” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 8, 2017. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02056