Description: In this exploratory study we tested if different aspects of aesthetic experiences during narrative engagement - literariness and emotional intensity. Independent ratings of literariness and emotional intensity of two literary stories were use as predictors of parametrically model blood oxygen-level-dependent signal changes in 52 listeners from an existing fMRI dataset. Literariness was associated with increased activation in brain areas linked to semantic integration (left angular gyrus, supramarginal gyrus, and precuneus), and decreased activation in bilateral middle temporal cortices, associated with semantic representations and word memory. Emotional intensity correlated with decreased activation in a bilateral frontoparietal network that is often associated with controlled attention. Our results confirm a neural dissociation in processing the form of literary language and the emotional content in stories and generate new questions about the function of and interaction between attention, social cognition, and semantic systems during literary engagement and aesthetic experiences.
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