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Emotion modulation of visual attention: categorical and temporal characteristics.

Ciesielski BG, Armstrong T, Zald DH, Olatunji BO
PLoS One. 2010 5 (11): e13860

PMID: 21079773 · PMCID: PMC2974644 · DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0013860

BACKGROUND - Experimental research has shown that emotional stimuli can either enhance or impair attentional performance. However, the relative effects of specific emotional stimuli and the specific time course of these differential effects are unclear.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS - In the present study, participants (nā€Š=ā€Š50) searched for a single target within a rapid serial visual presentation of images. Irrelevant fear, disgust, erotic or neutral images preceded the target by two, four, six, or eight items. At lag 2, erotic images induced the greatest deficits in subsequent target processing compared to other images, consistent with a large emotional attentional blink. Fear and disgust images also produced a larger attentional blinks at lag 2 than neutral images. Erotic, fear, and disgust images continued to induce greater deficits than neutral images at lag 4 and 6. However, target processing deficits induced by erotic, fear, and disgust images at intermediate lags (lag 4 and 6) did not consistently differ from each other. In contrast to performance at lag 2, 4, and 6, enhancement in target processing for emotional stimuli was observed in comparison to neutral stimuli at lag 8.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE - These findings suggest that task-irrelevant emotion information, particularly erotica, impairs intentional allocation of attention at early temporal stages, but at later temporal stages, emotional stimuli can have an enhancing effect on directed attention. These data suggest that the effects of emotional stimuli on attention can be both positive and negative depending upon temporal factors.

MeSH Terms (13)

Adolescent Arousal Attention Attentional Blink Cues Emotions Female Humans Male Psychomotor Performance Time Factors Visual Perception Young Adult

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