Humiliation as an intense emotional experience: Evidence from the electro-encephalogram

Marte Otten*, Kai J. Jonas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Web of Science)


Humiliation, the emotion associated with being lowered in status in the eyes of others, seems to be very intense. As such, humiliation has been implied to play an important role in the escalation of inter-individual and inter-group conflict. Here, we provide the first clear empirical evidence that humiliation is indeed a very intense experience. Based on the electro-encephalogram recorded from people reading scenarios that evoked humiliation, anger, or happiness, electrophysiological measures of cognitive intensity were derived for each of the emotion types. The late positive potential (LPP), a measure of the level of perceived (negative), affect was markedly increased in humiliation scenarios compared to happiness and anger scenarios. In addition, event-related desynchronization (ERD) in the alpha-frequency range, a measure of the overall intensity of cortical activation, was significantly more pronounced for humiliation than for happiness and anger scenarios. Our findings support the idea that humiliation is a particularly intense experience that is likely to have far-reaching consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-35
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Humiliation
  • EEG
  • LPP
  • Alpha Desynchronization

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