Several models of person perception predict then expectancy violations have both affective and cognitive consequences for the perceiver. Although extant evidence generally supports these claims, the temporal resolution of traditional self-report measures has limited researchers' ability to convincingly link underlying physiological processes with observed outcomes. In this study, we examined these issues by measuring brain (event-related brain potentials) and peripheral (facial electromyogram) electrophysiological activity while participants read positive and negative expectancy-consistent, expectancy-violating, expectancy-irrelevant, and semantically incongruent behavioral sentences about fictitious characters. The electromyogram results indicated that negative (but not positive) expectancy-violating behaviors elicited enhanced negative affect as early as 100 to 300 ms poststimulus. The event-related potentials showed enhanced positivities with latency exceeding 300 ms in response to expectancy violations and negative behaviors. Semantically incongruent sentence endings influenced a separate negative component (N400), suggesting fundamental differences between semantic- and behavior-consistency processing. This difference also was evident in participants' recall. Implications for theoretical models of expectancy violation are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas