September 2005
Volume 5, Issue 8
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2005
Emotional valence and the attentional blink: The impact of meaning on detection
Author Affiliations
  • Michael E. Silverman
    Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • Jon Lam
    Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • Michal Safier
    Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • Leslie D. Delfiner
    Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • Emily Stern
    Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • David Silbersweig
    Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Journal of Vision September 2005, Vol.5, 393. doi:10.1167/5.8.393
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      Michael E. Silverman, Jon Lam, Michal Safier, Leslie D. Delfiner, Emily Stern, David Silbersweig; Emotional valence and the attentional blink: The impact of meaning on detection. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):393. doi: 10.1167/5.8.393.

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

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The Attentional Blink (AB) is a visual phenomenon demonstrating an apparent limit of the visual system's ability to process individual items in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). The AB occurs when two items, the first (target) to be identified and the second (probe) to be detected, are presented among other stimuli in a RSVP. The AB describes the interval of time in which attention cannot be focused on the probe which thereby proceeds undetected. Previous research has demonstrated that an iconic happy face attenuates the AB (Mack et al, 2002). We chose to explore whether this finding was face specific or emotionally mediated. Methods: RSVP streams of face stimuli with similar emotional expressions were presented at a rate of 100/ms each to produce an AB. Ss were instructed to identify one of five blue shapes superimposed over one of the faces in the RSVP and detect a subsequent face probe presenting a different emotional expression. Conditions consisted of: 1) a smiling face probe among neutral expressions; 2) a frowning face probe among neutral expressions and; 3) a neutral expression face probe among smiling faces. Results: When Ss were asked solely to detect the probe, performance ranged between 90 & 100%. However when Ss were asked to both identify the target and detect the probe, the results demonstrated a monotonic AB with a lag effect (Awh et al, 2003) rather than the classic U-shaped AB function (Raymond et al, 1992) across all conditions. Notably, significant differences were found between detection rates of the happy face and sad face as compared to the neutral face (p Conclusions: The AB has been demonstrated reliably over numerous conditions using various stimuli. Our experiment differs from these studies in that both the distractors and probes comprised similar forms with different meaning. Our results point to the attenuation of the AB by emotion and offer additional support in the late selection processes mediating perception of the attentional blink.

Silverman, M. E. Lam, J. Safier, M. Delfiner, L. D. Stern, E. Silbersweig, D. (2005). Emotional valence and the attentional blink: The impact of meaning on detection [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 5(8):393, 393a,, doi:10.1167/5.8.393. [CrossRef]

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