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Ella Moeck, Nicole Thomas, Steven Most, Jenna Zhao, Melanie Takarangi; Emotion Induced Blindness in the Left and Right Visual Field. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1660. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1660.
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It is often crucial to attend to relevant, and ignore irrelevant, visual information. But when irrelevant information is emotional, it reflexively captures attention, impairing noticing of neutral targets appearing directly afterwards. This robust effect is known as emotion induced blindness. We tested whether emotion induced blindness is exacerbated in the left compared to the right visual field. This hypothesis stems from neurotypical people paying slightly more attention to the left than the right side, which can increase susceptibility to left-side distraction. On each trial, two simultaneous rapid streams of images (100-ms/image) appeared, one to each visual field. Participants reported the clockwise/counterclockwise orientation of a neutral target image embedded in one of the streams. Two items before the target (i.e., lag 2), a neutral or negative emotional distractor could appear. The distractor and target could appear in the same stream, or the opposite stream, as each other. On trials with neutral distractors (and no distractors), target detection was approximately 6% higher in the left than the right visual field. On trials with emotional distractors, however, target detection was impaired to the same degree in the left as the right visual field. We replicated these findings in a second experiment. Taken together, these findings suggest that when emotional distractors are present, they disrupt perception, regardless of distractor and target location. Future research should investigate the time course of this emotional disruption in the left and right visual fields, by manipulating the number of items between the distractor and target (e.g., comparing lag 2 with lag 7). This work has important implications for understanding how to reduce emotional distraction in sustained attention tasks, where distraction can be fatal (e.g., driving).
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