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Briana L. Kennedy, Steven B. Most; Emotion-induced blindness elicits no lag-1 sparing. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):111. doi: 10.1167/11.11.111.
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Emotional stimuli can hinder awareness of subsequent stimuli presented in an RSVP stream. Known as emotion-induced blindness, this phenomenon bears considerable likeness to the attentional blink (AB), as in both cases attention to an initial item impairs detection of a subsequent item. One account of perceptual failures in RSVP suggests that they can arise due to spatiotemporal competition, where rapidly presented items that overlap in space elicit neural responses that also overlap in time (Keysers & Perrett, 2002), and recent evidence suggests that such competition might contribute to emotion-induced blindness (Most & Wang, in press). However, such a mechanism cannot account for “lag 1 sparing”, the preserved perception of the first item that follows an initial target in many AB studies. Given the phenomenological similarity between emotion-induced blindness and the AB, we investigated whether lag 1 sparing occurs in an emotion-induced blindness task. In Experiment 1, participants searched for a target (a rotated landscape image) embedded within a rapid serial stream of upright landscape photos and tried to ignore task-irrelevant neutral or emotional distractors that could appear either 1 (lag 1) or 2 (lag 2) serial positions prior to the target. Emotional distractors impaired target perception equally at lag 1 and lag 2, indicating an absence of lag 1 sparing. In Experiment 2, we compared performance at lag 1 to performance at lag 8 in order to confirm that such emotional disruption stemmed from a perceptual bottleneck rather than a performance decrement that generalized across lags. Consistent with disruption of perceptual processing, emotion-induced blindness occurred at lag 1 but not lag 8. Together, these results support the notion of spatiotemporal competition as a mechanism underlying emotion-induced blindness.
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