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Distracted by pleasure: effects of positive versus negative valence on emotional capture under load

Gupta, R; Hur, YJ; Lavie, N; (2016) Distracted by pleasure: effects of positive versus negative valence on emotional capture under load. Emotion , 16 (3) pp. 328-337. 10.1037/emo0000112. Green open access

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Abstract

We report 3 experiments examining the effects of positive versus negative valence and perceptual load in determining attention capture by irrelevant emotional distractors. Participants performed a letter search task searching for 1 of 2 target letters (X or N) in conditions of either low perceptual load (circular nontarget letters) or high perceptual load (angular nontarget letters that are similar to the target letters). On 25% of the trials an irrelevant emotional distractor was presented at the display center and participants were instructed to ignore it. The distractor stimulus was either positive or negative and was selected from 3 different classes: IAPS pictures of erotica or mutilated bodies (Experiment 1), happy or angry faces (Experiment 2), and faces associated with gain or loss in a prior value-learning phase involving a betting game (Experiment 3). The results showed a consistent pattern of interaction of load and valence across the 3 experiments. Irrelevant emotional distractors produced interference effects on search reaction time (RT) in conditions of low load, with no difference between negative and positive valence. High perceptual load, however, consistently reduced interference from the negative-valence distractors, but had no effect on the positive-valence distractors. As these results were consistently found across 3 different categories of emotional distractors, they suggest the general conclusion that attentional capture by irrelevant emotional distractors depends on both their valence and the level of perceptual load in the task and highlight the special status of distractors associated with pleasure.

Type: Article
Title: Distracted by pleasure: effects of positive versus negative valence on emotional capture under load
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/emo0000112
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000112
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 American Psychological Association. This article may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal; it is not the copy of record. The final published article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000112
Keywords: perceptual load, attentional capture, positive valence, negative valence, emotional distractors
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1477588
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