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Jane E. Raymond, Nader Tavasolli, Mark Fenske; Selective visual attention to novel stimuli determines emotional responses. Journal of Vision 2002;2(7):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/2.7.2.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual attention acts to facilitate processing of task relevant stimuli and inhibit processing of irrelevant distracting stimuli. We asked whether these processes, when directed at novel complex coloured patterns, affected emotional responses. Previous research has examined the impact of emotional stimuli on attention. Here, we examined the impact of attention on the generation of emotional responses. In a series of 2-task trials, 40 observers performed first an RT-task to locate a target in a simple, brief, left-right display of two novel pattern types (randomly generated colored squares or circles). They then rated the “cheerfulness” of a centrally presented pattern that was either the target or distractor in the preceding task. (In the baseline condition, stimuli were rated after selecting from unrelated stimuli). In some experiments, presentation of the stimuli in the first task was preceded by a brief presentation of happy, sad, or scrambled faces to determine if selective attention could modulate affective priming. The results were that (1) prior attention to stimuli lead to significantly better-than-baseline liking and prior ignoring lead to significantly worse-than-baseline liking, and (2) affective qualities of the face priming stimuli modulated liking (as shown previously), and (3) attention effects on liking were independent of affective priming effects. These results demonstrate that the state of visual attention at the time of initial exposure to a stimulus can determine subsequent affective responses. Although it is perhaps not surprising that targets are “liked”, the finding that distractors are “disliked” has important implications for the affective consequences of stimuli used in marketing (e.g., banners on websites) that are frequently distracting.
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