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OS_44. Emotions

Sunday, October 02nd,   2011 [17:00 - 18:00]


OS_44.1 - Automatic affective processing is modulated by feature-specific attention allocation

Everaert, T. , Spruyt, A. & De Houwer, J.

Ghent University

We present a series of studies that suggest that, in contrast to popular beliefs, automatic affective processing takes place only if attention is assigned to the affective stimulus dimension (Spruyt, De Houwer, & Hermans, 2009). In four experiments, we encouraged one group of participants to attend the affective stimulus dimension (the affective group) and another group to attend a non-affective, semantic stimulus dimension (the non-affective group). We used different tasks to measure affective processing in each study. In Experiment 1 and 2, we used more traditional measures of affective processing: the emotional Stroop task and the dot probe task. In Experiment 3, we performed a multidimensional scaling procedure on participants’ similarity judgments. This procedure yielded the weights participants assigned to the affective stimulus dimension and a non-affective stimulus dimension. In Experiment 4, we employed EEG to compare the size of the P3a component elicited by an affective and non-affective oddball stimulus. In all experiments, automatic affective processing was more pronounced in the affective group. In the non-affective group, we observed similar effects with regard to the non-affective stimulus dimension. Feature-specific attention allocation thus appears to play a crucial role in automatic affective processing.

OS_44.2 - Learning names for fearful faces - on the interaction of emotion and learning

Keuper, K. 1 , Beintner, R. 1 , Peter, Z. 2 & Dobel, C. 1

1 Institute for Biomagnetism and Biosignalanalysis, University of Münster
2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Münster

Adaptive behavior requires the brain to deal with a variety of demands such as detecting biologically meaningful events and associating them with significant contextual cues. A huge corpus of research has shown that normal observers exhibit fast involuntary responses to emotional stimuli, in particular, when these are related to potential threats, such as faces with fearful expressions (e.g. Öhman, Esteves, & Soares, 1995, Vuilleumier, Armony, Driver, & Dolan, 2001). However, little is known about the interaction of such processing advantages with other cognitive demands relevant to daily life, like associating people's names with their faces. The present study intended to shed light on this question by combining a statistical learning paradigm (Dobel et al., 2010) with behavioral and physiological measures (simultaneous EEG and MEG). Twenty participants were required to learn associations of visually presented pseudo names with fearful or neutral faces. Both, behavioral and physiological data reveal that new names were rapidly learned and subsequently activated the underlying conceptual representations. Further, behavioral results (cued recall and various implicit measures) display a learning advantage for neutral faces. This finding suggests that the prioritized processing of fearful faces leads to attenuated learning which might partly be due to an avoidance reaction.

OS_44.3 - Slow to anger: Emergence of emotionally loaded words and faces from interocular suppression

Vinson, D. 1 , Anderson, A. 1 , Ratoff, W. 1 , Bahrami, B. 2, 3 & Vigliocco, G. 1

1 Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences Research Department. University College London. London, United Kingdom.
2 Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. University College London. London, United Kingdom.
3 Institute of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics. Aarhus University and Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience. Aarhus, Denmark

The involvement of emotion in lexical processing has gained a great deal of attention, with many studies showing differential processing of words with negative emotional content. It is unknown, however, whether these effects of emotion are restricted to conscious perception, or extend to preconscious processing as well. In the present study we examine the role of emotional content on preconscious face and word processing, taking advantage of interocular suppression to render a stimulus invisible for a short duration, and using an orthogonal spatial task (location discrimination) to identify the time at which a stimulus emerges from visual suppression. Consistent patterns were observed for emotional content across modality: negative stimuli (angry faces and negative words) took longer to emerge than positively valenced (happy faces and positive words) or neutral stimuli (neutral faces and words). The direction of this effect is, however, in contrast to previous studies in which negative stimuli show an advantage, rather than a disadvantage as we observe here. We discuss how differences in task demands can produce apparently incompatible patterns of results, and show how these different results can be reconciled within attentional accounts of negativity bias.

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