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Kirsten Ziman, Ariana Familiar, Won Mok Shim; Positive affect worsens ensemble coding performance. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):59. doi: 10.1167/16.12.59.
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It has recently been suggested that positive emotions may have flexible effects on the broadening or narrowing of cognitive processing, rather than the fixed, emotion-specific effects previously assumed (Huntsinger, 2013). The effect of mood may be linked to the demands of the present task or the cognitive state which is currently dominant (Huntsinger, Isbell, & Clore, 2014). Our previous finding that subjects utilize a narrowed attentional scope during visual crowding tasks when in a positive (happy) mood supports the notion of a flexible effect of positive states on visual attention, and extends it to low-level visual processing (Familiar, Uddenberg, & Shim, 2015). However, since utilizing a narrowed attentional scope was facilitative in the case of our visual crowding paradigm, it remains unclear if this mood-induced narrowing was task-specific. In the present study, we explore the effects of positive and negative emotions on the perceptual process of ensemble coding (by which viewers encode the visual average of a stimuli set), which is presumably facilitated by a broadened attentional scope. Subjects were shown short video clips to induce positive (happy) and negative (fear) emotions, as well as a neutral control clip. In each emotion condition, subjects were briefly presented with six equally-spaced, pseudo-randomly-oriented peripheral Gabors, immediately followed by a single, centrally-located Gabor. Subjects indicated whether the tilt of the single Gabor was clockwise or counterclockwise relative to the estimated average orientation (ensemble) of the initial six Gabor stimuli. The results show that subjects' estimation of the average orientation was more accurate in the fear condition than in the happy condition. These results provide evidence for a consistent narrowing of one's spatial attentional scope in happy moods across perceptual tasks despite varying task demands, and may point to an emotion-specific narrowing effect of positive states on visual attention processes.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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