Stories can elicit powerful emotions. A key emotional response to narrative plots (e.g., novels, movies, etc.) is suspense. Suspense appears to build on basic aspects of human cognition such as processes of expectation, anticipation, and prediction. However, the neural processes underlying emotional experiences of suspense have not been previously investigated. We acquired functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data while participants read a suspenseful literary text (E.T.A. Hoffmann's “The Sandman”) subdivided into short text passages. Individual ratings of experienced suspense obtained after each text passage were found to be related to activation in the medial frontal cortex, bilateral frontal regions (along the inferior frontal sulcus), lateral premotor cortex, as well as posterior temporal and temporo-parietal areas. The results indicate that the emotional experience of suspense depends on brain areas associated with social cognition and predictive inference.
Citation: Lehne M, Engel P, Rohrmeier M, Menninghaus W, Jacobs AM, Koelsch S (2015) Reading a Suspenseful Literary Text Activates Brain Areas Related to Social Cognition and Predictive Inference. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0124550. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124550
Academic Editor: Jyrki Ahveninen, Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, UNITED STATES
Received: October 18, 2014; Accepted: March 15, 2015; Published: May 6, 2015
Copyright: © 2015 Lehne et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
Data Availability: Behavioral rating data are provided as Supporting Information files.
Funding: The research was funded by the Excellence Initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (http://www.bmbf.de/en/1321.php). Financial support for MR has been generously provided in part by the Zukunftskonzept at TU Dresden funded by the Exzellenzinitiative of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.