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28-02-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2020

Psychological Research 2/2020

Do arousal and valence have separable influences on attention across time?

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2020
Brandon T. Saxton, Samantha K. Myhre, Tharaki Siyaguna, Paul D. Rokke
Belangrijke opmerkingen
A special thank you is extended to several students who assisted in the data collection, including Alyssa Boetel, Erika Brennan, Alison Brorby, Brandon Goering, Jenna Green, Sean Hatten, Allison Martin, James Murphy, Tanner Muehler, and Nichole Venable.
Portions of the data included in this manuscript were previously presented at conferences of the Association for Psychological Science (2013), the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (2013), and the American Psychological Association (2014).


Previous research has shown that emotions differentially influence attention across time, especially when the valence of the attended stimuli is congruent with the emotion of observer. Sadness produces a larger attentional blink while fear and happiness produce smaller attentional blinks. We report on four dual-task rapid serial visual presentation experiments in which participant emotion and the affective features of the first target (T1) were systematically varied to determine whether arousal and valence have unique and consistent influences on attention performance. All T1s connoted affect. Results showed that the emotional experience of negative affect with high arousal led to better second target (T2) detection than negative affect with low arousal. In conditions where positive affect was the experienced emotion, low arousal resulted in better T2 detection than high arousal. When participant arousal was held constant at a low level there were no differences in performance. When participant arousal was high, a cross-over effect was observed in which negative affect produced better performance than positive affect at early positions and negative affect produced better performance at late. The first targets in these experiments varied in arousal and valence to test for emotion congruent effects, but none were found. It was concluded that the experience of varied levels of arousal and types of valence do not have separable influences on attention across time. Rather, their influence is more consistent with emotion-specific mechanisms.

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