August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Was that a threat? A cueing study on attentional guidance by threat signals
Author Affiliations
  • Daniel Preciado
    Department of experimental and applied psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Jaap Munneke
    Department of experimental and applied psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Jan Theeuwes
    Department of experimental and applied psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 83. doi:10.1167/16.12.83
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      Daniel Preciado, Jaap Munneke, Jan Theeuwes; Was that a threat? A cueing study on attentional guidance by threat signals. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):83. doi: 10.1167/16.12.83.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Research indicates that stimuli signaling threat may capture and hold attention. However, whether threat signals have a true effect on perception and attention or if this effect results merely from arousal and response activation is still a matter of debate. 34 volunteers completed a modified spatial-emotional cueing paradigm to examine how perceptual sensitivity (d') and response times (RT) were affected by a threatening stimulus. The color of one cue was paired with a chance to receive an electric shock, the others were neutral. Two colored circles were presented as cues at each side of fixation, one of which could be associated with a shock. Following the cues, two Gabor patches were presented; one of which was tilted and served as target. The target Gabor patch could be presented at the location of the threat-associated cue (Cued) or on the opposite side (Uncued). Stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between cue and target was either 100ms or 1000ms. The results showed, relative to the neutral condition, an increased perceptual sensitivity (d') and faster RTs for targets appearing at the location where the threat associated cue was presented and lower d' and slower RTs for targets appearing at opposite side of the threatening cue. This indicates that, immediately after cue presentation, attention is captured by the threat-associated cue, evidenced by the higher d' for detecting targets at the cued versus the uncued locations at the short SOA. Crucially, this enhanced perceptual sensitivity remained present for the long SOA, suggesting that attention remains focused at the location of the threatening stimulus even 1000 ms after it was extinguished. RT measures followed a similar pattern. The current results show an effect of threatening stimuli on perceptual selectivity (d'), providing unequivocal evidence that threatening stimuli can modulate the efficacy of sensory processing.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016

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