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Hannah Wyland, Jeffrey Mounts, Matthew Hilimire; Arousal Affects Attentional Guidance based on Selection History. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):509. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.10.509.
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Research has begun to examine whether emotional stimuli might influence attentional control settings. Here, we examine whether selection history biases, in the form of Priming-of-Popout (PoP), are influenced by the presence of emotional stimuli. In the PoP paradigm, a set of homogenous distractors (e.g., green) are displayed along with a target defined by a unique feature (e.g., orange). The features of the target and distractors varies across trials, with PoP defined as faster responses identifying the target when the target-defining feature repeats across trials compared to when it changes. In the first experiment, we induced a fearful or neutral context by briefly presenting a picture before the search display (170 ms SOA). The pictures depicted either interpersonal violence involving a weapon, or a picture of a neutral household object (e.g., a basket). The results indicated that PoP was significantly reduced in the fear context compared to the neutral context. A second experiment tested the generality of the effect, and ruled out an alternative explanation based on the nature of the neutral pictures. The neutral context pictures were low arousal, neutral valence pictures of people (rather than objects). The same fear inducing pictures (high arousal, negative valence) were used in the fear context, while a third context depicted people in thrilling scenes (high arousal, positive valence; e.g., skydiving). Compared to the neutral context, PoP was significantly reduced following both the fear and thrill context pictures, suggesting that PoP reduction is controlled by arousal, rather than valence. However, it is possible that despite their positive valence, the thrill pictures may have also induced a level of fear due to the dangerous nature of the situations depicted. Regardless, the results suggest that selection history biases may be temporarily reset by emotional stimuli, allowing the more efficient selection of new information in such circumstances.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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