August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
Not All Threats are Created Equal: Selection History Biases are Differentially Affected by Fear and Disgust
Author Affiliations
  • Matthew Hilimire
    Psychology Department, College of William & Mary
  • Jeffrey Mounts
    Psychology Department, State University of New York at Geneseo
  • Bina Kakusa
    Psychology Department, College of William & Mary
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 513. doi:
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      Matthew Hilimire, Jeffrey Mounts, Bina Kakusa; Not All Threats are Created Equal: Selection History Biases are Differentially Affected by Fear and Disgust. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):513.

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

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Recently, there has been a growing interest in examining how implicit memory factors, such as selection history, guide visual attention. One manifestation of selection history is intertrial feature priming, which is observed when reaction times to a target decrease when properties defining the target and/or distractor repeat across trials compared to when they change. The current study examined the influence of threat on intertrial priming. Prior to a visual search display, a threatening, neutral, or inverted neutral image was presented. Between groups, the threatening images were either fear-inducing (e.g., guns, knives, snakes) or disgust-inducing (e.g., roaches, mutilations). The length of time that the image was presented was manipulated (150, 250, 1000, and 1500ms). In the visual search task, the target was one of two color singletons (one orange, one green) presented among grey filler objects. Each object was a circle outline that contained a caret. The target singleton contained a caret from the target set (pointing left or right), whereas the decoy singleton contained a caret from the non-target set (up or down). The color of the target changed randomly trial-to-trial. Observers responded to the orientation of the caret inside the target singleton. When the fear-inducing image was presented for 150 ms, reverse priming occurred (i.e., reaction time was faster when the target color switched from the previous trial compared to when the target color repeated). This was due to slowing of reaction time on target color repeat trials for the fear context relative to the neutral context. In contrast, the disgust-inducing images resulted in typical patterns of priming. These results support the idea that fear triggers a type of attentional reset, clearing previous selection biases in order to more effectively attend to and process new potential threats in the environment.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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