September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Semantic generalization of threat-related attentional capture
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Laurent Grégoire
    Texas A&M University
  • Andy J. Kim
    Texas A&M University
  • Brian A. Anderson
    Texas A&M University
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This study was supported by grants from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation [NARSAD 26008] and NIH [R01-DA046410] to Brian A. Anderson.
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2057. doi:
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      Laurent Grégoire, Andy J. Kim, Brian A. Anderson; Semantic generalization of threat-related attentional capture. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2057. doi:

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

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This study aimed to determine whether attentional prioritization of visual stimuli associated with punishment transfers across conceptual knowledge independently of physical features. Participants performed a Stroop task in which eight words were presented individually. These words corresponded to four pairs of synonyms: clock-time, assist-help, fuel-gas, yolk-egg. The chosen pairs were all rated highly for frequency of free association when single word priming was provided. There was no phonological or orthographic similarity between either word of each pair. Words were presented in equiluminant red, green, blue, and purple. In the learning phase, the first word of two pairs (randomly selected and counterbalanced across participants) was associated with shock independently of performance (with a reinforcement ratio of 66.67%). The subsequent generalization phase was similar to the learning phase but no shock was delivered. Participants were instructed to manually report the ink color of each word as quickly and accurately as possible, ignoring their meaning. Before the learning phase, we specified that trials sometimes resulted in the delivery of a shock, but no information about stimulus-punishment contingencies was given. Results are consistent with semantic generalization of stimulus-punishment associations. Synonyms of words paired with shock produced a Stroop interference effect (i.e., slower response times) in the learning and the generalization phases, relative to synonyms of words not paired with shock, suggesting they were prioritized by attention (due to their semantic association with words related to shock) and so more difficult to inhibit.


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