August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Electrophysiological evidence for early perceptual disruption by emotional distractors
Author Affiliations
  • Briana L. Kennedy
    University of Delaware
  • Jennifer Rawding
    University of Notre Dame
  • Steven B. Most
    University of Delaware
  • James E. Hoffman
    University of Delaware
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 15. doi:
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      Briana L. Kennedy, Jennifer Rawding, Steven B. Most, James E. Hoffman; Electrophysiological evidence for early perceptual disruption by emotional distractors. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):15. doi:

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

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Emotion-induced blindness (EIB) refers to disrupted awareness for items presented soon after an emotionally arousing stimulus. In the present study, we investigated the neural signature of EIB using event-related potentials (ERPs). If EIB is similar to the "attentional blink", we would expect that the emotional distractor would elicit a P300 component reflecting a trade-off in working memory resources with the task-relevant target. Recent behavioral evidence, however, suggests that EIB stems from early perceptual competition between emotional distractors and targets. Participants in the current experiment searched for a single rotated picture that appeared two or eight images (lag-2 and lag-8 respectively) after one of three types of irrelevant distractor picture: emotionally negative, neutral, or "baseline" scene. Pictures appeared in a rapidly presented stream (one image replacing the next every 100 msec). Results showed that at lag-2, target detection was lowest following negative distractors, better following neutral distractors, and best following baseline distractors, with no difference between distractor types at lag-8. Importantly, no P300 was observed for any of the distractor types and the P300 for targets did not mimic the behavioral results. Instead, an early posterior negativity (EPN) was observed approximately 220 msec following both distractors and targets, and the amplitude of this component showed a trade-off that was consistent with the behavioral data. A large EPN was elicited by the task-relevant target picture when it was preceded by a baseline distractor picture, which produced a small EPN. However, an emotional distractor produced a large EPN and resulted in a small EPN for the subsequent target. Neutral distractors were in between these two extremes. These results provide converging neural evidence that EIB reflects competition during early perceptual stages, which differs from the late-stage disruption proposed for the attentional blink.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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