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Helena J.V. Rutherford, Jane E. Raymond; Affective consequences of exogenous attentional orienting. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):694. doi: 10.1167/7.9.694.
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Prior attentional state can have consequences for the emotional evaluation of stimuli. Stimuli previously seen as distractors in a visual search task are evaluated more negatively than previously seen target or novel stimuli (e.g. Raymond et al., 2003). Here, we probed whether exogenous attentional orienting mechanisms could contribute to this ‘distractor devaluation’ effect and to what extent object- versus location-based processes contribute. Previous studies used only affectively positive or neutral stimuli: here we used threat stimuli to determine if ignoring results in devaluation or suppression of affective intensity. Participants engaged in a simple standard inhibition of return (IOR) task and then evaluated items used as cues in the preceding task (or novel items). The IOR task consists of presenting a brief non-predictive cue to the left or right of fixation (causing reflexive orienting to the cue), brightening the fixation spot to re-orient attention to the centre, and then presenting a target at the cued or uncued location. With intervals between cue and target [[gt]] 300 ms, responding is slower at cued v. uncued locations. This difference is called IOR. Here, we presented complex images as cues: spiders (negative) or leaves (neutral) and simple circles as targets. After target localization, we presented (at the target location or at fixation) the previously seen cue or a novel item from the same or different category as the cue. Each was then affectively rated (how positive, how negative). Our question was whether the putative inhibition of the cue and/or its location would be applied in the rating task to specific items (old versus new exemplars of the same category as the cue) regardless of location or to all items but only at cued locations. The results inform understanding of attention-emotion interactions and provide information about exogenous attentional orienting to valenced emotional stimuli.
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