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Brent Pitchford, Karen Arnell; Approach motivation and narrowed attentional breadth following self-control: investigating the role of asymmetrical frontal activity. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.1125.
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People often inhibit or override their dominant response tendencies in order to successfully complete tasks. This process is referred to as self-control. While considering people's approach-motivated tendencies, Schmeichel, Crowell and Harmon-Jones (2016) determined that completing self-control was associated with increased relative left frontal cortical activity and Harmon-Jones and Gable (2009) determined that greater left frontal cortical activity was associated with narrowed attention. Based on these findings, it was predicted that greater left frontal activity would result in narrowed attention after exercising self-control. The purpose of the current study was then to examine whether people's attentional breadth would relate to their frontal asymmetry after completing an incongruent color Stroop task (i.e., indicating the ink colors of mismatching color words), as this is a common self-control manipulation used in past research. Attentional breadth, or whether people focused on the 'forest' or the 'trees', was indicated by reaction time differences between when the two target letters (T, H) were presented in the global and local levels of the hierarchical Navon letter stimuli. An equal number of trials were presented both before and after the Stroop task. The change in attentional breadth (i.e., post Stroop - pre Stroop) was associated with people's naturally occurring approach motivation - as indexed by their Behavioural Activation System (BAS) scores; attentional breadth following the self-control task was negatively related to BAS. As well, the breadth of attention and self-report measures were related to frontal alpha asymmetry (i.e., lateralized cortical activity in the frontal regions) during an initial resting session as well as during the pretrial period between the offset of fixation and the onset of the Navon letter stimuli. The present findings provide further evidence that both motivation and self-control can influence attentional breadth, and give us a better understanding of the role of asymmetrical frontal cortical activity.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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