19-06-2021 | Original Article
Both cute and threatening images drive narrowing of attention in men and women
Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 4/2022Log in om toegang te krijgen
Appraisal theories of emotion sustain that stimuli containing high biological relevance preferentially capture our attention, regardless of their valence. In this work, we study the priming effect of both cute and threatening pictures on global/local visual processing. Seventy-eight males and 168 females in different menstrual cycle phases performed the global/local Navon letter task immediately after observing cute (infants and baby animals), threatening (animals in aggressive poses) or neutral pictures. Hierarchical stimuli were made up of global and local letters that could be either congruent (e.g. global H, localH) or incongruent (e.g. global H, localS). While we observed no interaction between affective primes and sex/menstrual cycle phase, each of these variables did have an independent effect on the global/local task. Thus, letter identification was significantly slower in the global task (only) after cute vs. neutral primes. Relevantly, the local-minus-global RT index revealed an attentional narrowing after both cute and threatening primes (vs. neutral primes) in incongruent trials. As for sex effects, a facilitation of global vs. local processing was observed in both sexes. However, women registered slower RTs than men, whereas women in the luteal phase showed faster RTs than those in follicular phase in the local task. This suggests that women, mainly those in their luteal menstrual phase, tend to rely on a more analytical style of processing while attending to hierarchical stimuli. Most importantly, stimuli containing high biological significance drive narrowing of the attentional focus in global/local visual processing, especially in conditions of higher attentional demand.