September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Attentional tuning to events associated with long-term concerns
Author Affiliations
  • Jennifer Whitman
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Kevin Roberts
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Rochelle Picardo
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Jiaying Zhao
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Rebecca Todd
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 868. doi:
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      Jennifer Whitman, Kevin Roberts, Rochelle Picardo, Jiaying Zhao, Rebecca Todd; Attentional tuning to events associated with long-term concerns. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):868.

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

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Stimulus features such as brightness, color, and subjective arousal level are potent in capturing attention. This capture facilitates perceptual encoding and subsequent processing. Yet, it is still unknown whether stimuli related to long-term personal concerns similarly capture attention. To address this question, we employed an attentional blink (AB) paradigm, where observers detected two targets embedded in a stream of distractors during rapid serial visual presentation. The second target (T2) was either a word related to climate change or a neutral word (Experiment 1). Observers were more likely to detect T2 if it was climate-related than neutral. We refer to this reduced attentional blink for words related to climate change as climate word AB sparing. To examine whether this was driven by emotional arousal, we added a condition with negative emotionally arousing words (Experiment 2). We again found that observers were more likely to detect climate-related and negative T2 words than neutral ones. However, the climate words (e.g. carbon) were rated as less arousing than the negative words (e.g. murder), suggesting that climate word AB sparing was not strictly due to immediate arousal. Finally, to examine whether the sparing was explained by semantic priming, because climate words share a semantic category, we performed a version of the experiment with health-related rather than climate-related words (Experiment 3). Observers were equally likely to detect health-related or neutral targets, suggesting that the climate-word AB sparing was not due to semantic priming. In all experiments, no mention of climate change was made in the instructions. In subsequent surveys, most observers expressed environmental concerns. Thus, the heightened perceptual encoding of climate change stimuli was driven by long-term concerns. In sum, these findings suggest that attentional tuning to salient stimuli can reflect associations with long-term concerns, rather than immediate arousal or priming of a semantic category.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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