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Explicit attention interferes with selective emotion processing in human extrastriate cortex.

Schupp HT, Stockburger J, Bublatzky F, Junghöfer M, Weike AI, Hamm AO - BMC Neurosci (2007)

Bottom Line: Participants successfully performed the primary visual attention task as revealed by behavioral performance and selected event-related potential components (Selection Negativity and P3b).Furthermore, the results are inconsistent with the notion of effortlessness, i.e., early emotion discrimination despite concurrent task demands.These findings implicate to assess the presumed automatic nature of emotion processing at the level of specific aspects rather than considering automaticity as an all-or-none phenomenon.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Germany. Harald.Schupp@uni-konstanz.de

ABSTRACT

Background: Brain imaging and event-related potential studies provide strong evidence that emotional stimuli guide selective attention in visual processing. A reflection of the emotional attention capture is the increased Early Posterior Negativity (EPN) for pleasant and unpleasant compared to neutral images (approximately 150-300 ms poststimulus). The present study explored whether this early emotion discrimination reflects an automatic phenomenon or is subject to interference by competing processing demands. Thus, emotional processing was assessed while participants performed a concurrent feature-based attention task varying in processing demands.

Results: Participants successfully performed the primary visual attention task as revealed by behavioral performance and selected event-related potential components (Selection Negativity and P3b). Replicating previous results, emotional modulation of the EPN was observed in a task condition with low processing demands. In contrast, pleasant and unpleasant pictures failed to elicit increased EPN amplitudes compared to neutral images in more difficult explicit attention task conditions. Further analyses determined that even the processing of pleasant and unpleasant pictures high in emotional arousal is subject to interference in experimental conditions with high task demand. Taken together, performing demanding feature-based counting tasks interfered with differential emotion processing indexed by the EPN.

Conclusion: The present findings demonstrate that taxing processing resources by a competing primary visual attention task markedly attenuated the early discrimination of emotional from neutral picture contents. Thus, these results provide further empirical support for an interference account of the emotion-attention interaction under conditions of competition. Previous studies revealed the interference of selective emotion processing when attentional resources were directed to locations of explicitly task-relevant stimuli. The present data suggest that interference of emotion processing by competing task demands is a more general phenomenon extending to the domain of feature-based attention. Furthermore, the results are inconsistent with the notion of effortlessness, i.e., early emotion discrimination despite concurrent task demands. These findings implicate to assess the presumed automatic nature of emotion processing at the level of specific aspects rather than considering automaticity as an all-or-none phenomenon.

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Interference of selective emotion processing by task demand. (A) Grand-averaged ERP waveforms elicited by pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures in the four experimental conditions for a right occipital sensor. The grey-shaded area refers to the analyzed EPN time interval from 200–300 ms. (B) Topographical difference maps for pleasant-neutral and unpleasant-neutral in the four conditions projected on the back view of a model head (mean from 200–300 ms).
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Figure 2: Interference of selective emotion processing by task demand. (A) Grand-averaged ERP waveforms elicited by pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures in the four experimental conditions for a right occipital sensor. The grey-shaded area refers to the analyzed EPN time interval from 200–300 ms. (B) Topographical difference maps for pleasant-neutral and unpleasant-neutral in the four conditions projected on the back view of a model head (mean from 200–300 ms).

Mentions: Of main interest, interference of selective emotion processing with the explicit attention task was indicated by the significant interaction of Valence and Task, F(6,90) = 10.4, corrected p < .0001, Greenhouse-Geisser epsilon = 0.73. The interaction is illustrated in Figure 2 by displaying ERP waveforms of a right hemispheric occipital sensor and back views of the mean topographical ERP difference maps (emotional – neutral picture contents). Obviously, emotional modulation appeared pronounced for the 0 % and 10 % task condition, while being greatly attenuated for the 50 % and 100 % tasks. Accordingly, to follow up the interaction of Valence by Task, emotional modulation was determined for each task condition separately. Both, the 0 % and 10 % task conditions revealed highly significant main effects of Valence, Fs(2,30) = 28.1 and 35.1, corrected ps < .0001, Greenhouse-Geisser epsilon = 0.87 and 0.91; indicating enlarged EPN amplitudes for pleasant and unpleasant compared to neutral images, ts(15) < -5.6, p < .0001. In contrast, separate analyses of the higher demanding 50 % and 100 % conditions revealed no significant effect of Valence, Fs(2,30) = 2.6 and 1.5, ns., Greenhouse-Geisser epsilon = 0.89 and 0.92.


Explicit attention interferes with selective emotion processing in human extrastriate cortex.

Schupp HT, Stockburger J, Bublatzky F, Junghöfer M, Weike AI, Hamm AO - BMC Neurosci (2007)

Interference of selective emotion processing by task demand. (A) Grand-averaged ERP waveforms elicited by pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures in the four experimental conditions for a right occipital sensor. The grey-shaded area refers to the analyzed EPN time interval from 200–300 ms. (B) Topographical difference maps for pleasant-neutral and unpleasant-neutral in the four conditions projected on the back view of a model head (mean from 200–300 ms).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC1808466&req=5

Figure 2: Interference of selective emotion processing by task demand. (A) Grand-averaged ERP waveforms elicited by pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures in the four experimental conditions for a right occipital sensor. The grey-shaded area refers to the analyzed EPN time interval from 200–300 ms. (B) Topographical difference maps for pleasant-neutral and unpleasant-neutral in the four conditions projected on the back view of a model head (mean from 200–300 ms).
Mentions: Of main interest, interference of selective emotion processing with the explicit attention task was indicated by the significant interaction of Valence and Task, F(6,90) = 10.4, corrected p < .0001, Greenhouse-Geisser epsilon = 0.73. The interaction is illustrated in Figure 2 by displaying ERP waveforms of a right hemispheric occipital sensor and back views of the mean topographical ERP difference maps (emotional – neutral picture contents). Obviously, emotional modulation appeared pronounced for the 0 % and 10 % task condition, while being greatly attenuated for the 50 % and 100 % tasks. Accordingly, to follow up the interaction of Valence by Task, emotional modulation was determined for each task condition separately. Both, the 0 % and 10 % task conditions revealed highly significant main effects of Valence, Fs(2,30) = 28.1 and 35.1, corrected ps < .0001, Greenhouse-Geisser epsilon = 0.87 and 0.91; indicating enlarged EPN amplitudes for pleasant and unpleasant compared to neutral images, ts(15) < -5.6, p < .0001. In contrast, separate analyses of the higher demanding 50 % and 100 % conditions revealed no significant effect of Valence, Fs(2,30) = 2.6 and 1.5, ns., Greenhouse-Geisser epsilon = 0.89 and 0.92.

Bottom Line: Participants successfully performed the primary visual attention task as revealed by behavioral performance and selected event-related potential components (Selection Negativity and P3b).Furthermore, the results are inconsistent with the notion of effortlessness, i.e., early emotion discrimination despite concurrent task demands.These findings implicate to assess the presumed automatic nature of emotion processing at the level of specific aspects rather than considering automaticity as an all-or-none phenomenon.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Germany. Harald.Schupp@uni-konstanz.de

ABSTRACT

Background: Brain imaging and event-related potential studies provide strong evidence that emotional stimuli guide selective attention in visual processing. A reflection of the emotional attention capture is the increased Early Posterior Negativity (EPN) for pleasant and unpleasant compared to neutral images (approximately 150-300 ms poststimulus). The present study explored whether this early emotion discrimination reflects an automatic phenomenon or is subject to interference by competing processing demands. Thus, emotional processing was assessed while participants performed a concurrent feature-based attention task varying in processing demands.

Results: Participants successfully performed the primary visual attention task as revealed by behavioral performance and selected event-related potential components (Selection Negativity and P3b). Replicating previous results, emotional modulation of the EPN was observed in a task condition with low processing demands. In contrast, pleasant and unpleasant pictures failed to elicit increased EPN amplitudes compared to neutral images in more difficult explicit attention task conditions. Further analyses determined that even the processing of pleasant and unpleasant pictures high in emotional arousal is subject to interference in experimental conditions with high task demand. Taken together, performing demanding feature-based counting tasks interfered with differential emotion processing indexed by the EPN.

Conclusion: The present findings demonstrate that taxing processing resources by a competing primary visual attention task markedly attenuated the early discrimination of emotional from neutral picture contents. Thus, these results provide further empirical support for an interference account of the emotion-attention interaction under conditions of competition. Previous studies revealed the interference of selective emotion processing when attentional resources were directed to locations of explicitly task-relevant stimuli. The present data suggest that interference of emotion processing by competing task demands is a more general phenomenon extending to the domain of feature-based attention. Furthermore, the results are inconsistent with the notion of effortlessness, i.e., early emotion discrimination despite concurrent task demands. These findings implicate to assess the presumed automatic nature of emotion processing at the level of specific aspects rather than considering automaticity as an all-or-none phenomenon.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus