Reaching back: the relative strength of the retroactive emotional attentional blink

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Choisdealbha, Áine ; Piech, Richard M ; Fuller, John K ; Zald, David H (2017)

Visual stimuli with emotional content appearing in close temporal proximity either before or after a target a stimulus can hinder conscious perceptual processing of the target via an emotional attentional blink (EAB). This occurs for targets that appear after the emotional stimulus (forward EAB) and for those appearing before the emotional stimulus (retroactive EAB). Additionally, the traditional attentional blink (AB) occurs because detection of any target hinders detection of a subsequent target. The present study investigated the relations between these different attentional processes. Rapid sequences of landscape images were presented to thirty-one male participants with occasional landscape targets (rotated images). For the forward EAB, emotional or neutral distractor images of people were presented before the target; for the retroactive EAB, such images were also targets and presented after the landscape target. In the latter case, this design allowed investigation of the AB as well. Erotic and gory images caused more EABs than neutral images, but there were no differential effects on the AB. This pattern is striking because while using different target categories (rotated landscapes, people) appears to have eliminated the AB, the retroactive EAB still occurred, offering additional evidence for the power of emotional stimuli over conscious attention.
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