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Do irrelevant emotional stimuli impair or improve executive control?

Cohen N, Henik A - Front Integr Neurosci (2012)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Beer-Sheva, Israel.

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This paper examines factors that mediate the influence of task-irrelevant negative stimuli on executive control (EC)... We recently showed that compared to neutral stimuli, negative stimuli delayed RTs for congruent flanker targets, but had no influence on incongruent targets (Cohen et al.,, )... Although these findings indicate a smaller congruity effect following negative stimuli, we did not interpret them as improved EC, but as attenuation of the emotional effect during conflict situations... In contrast, other studies interpreted results as being a consequence of impaired EC although their data did not show increased RTs for incongruent targets following negative stimuli... For example, examining RTs in the study of Dennis et al. may imply the increased congruity effect found after presentation of negative stimuli (and interpreted as impaired EC), resulted from facilitated RTs for negative compared to neutral stimuli in congruent trials, while RTs for incongruent trials following negative and neutral stimuli were very similar (Dennis et al., ; see Figure 1B)... These theories claim negative stimuli narrow attention and hence, reduce interference of distracting or irrelevant information (Derryberry and Tucker, ; Chajut and Algom, ; van Steenbergen et al., )... Indeed, a smaller congruity effect following negative compared to neutral stimuli is often driven by facilitation of incongruent targets (see example in Figure 1C), as a result of reduced attention to distractors (in the flanker task) or the irrelevant dimension (in the Stroop task)... Evidence regarding improved EC following presentation of negative stimuli is found in Birk et al. ’s study... The authors found reduced RTs for incongruent flanker targets following presentation of fearful compared to neutral faces (see Figure 1C)... Several other studies also suggested emotion improves EC (Dennis and Chen, ; Hu et al., ; Melcher et al., )... However, in contrast to Birk et al. ’s study, the reduced congruity effect in the latter studies did not result from reduced RTs in incongruent targets... In addition, we suggested that the use of difference scores (i.e., the congruity effect) might lead to different interpretations, even in face of similar data sets... We offer two important conclusions: The effect of emotion on EC is modulated by several factors... This effect is sometimes interpreted as impaired, and sometimes as improved EC, depending on the effect of emotion on congruent trials (compare Figures 1B,D, respectively)... This top-down effect should be directly examined by conducting a sequential analysis (Cohen et al., ) or by presenting the EC task before the emotional stimuli (Cohen et al., ).

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Illustration of “impaired” (A,B) and “improved” (C,D) executive control following negative, compared to neutral, stimuli.
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Figure 1: Illustration of “impaired” (A,B) and “improved” (C,D) executive control following negative, compared to neutral, stimuli.

Mentions: Figure 1 illustrates typical results (not based on empirical data) that can be found in experiments presenting negative and neutral stimuli prior to an executive task. Figures 1A,B demonstrate results suggesting impaired (i.e., larger congruity effect) EC, while Figures 1C,D demonstrate results suggesting improved (i.e., smaller congruity effect) EC following presentation of negative stimuli. A similar congruity effect is found in Figures 1A,B, and a similar congruity effect is found in Figures 1C,D. However, these similar effects are produced in different ways (e.g., the impaired congruity effect in Figure 1A is due to elongated RT in negative incongruent trials, whereas the impaired congruity effect in Figure 1B is due to facilitated RT in negative congruent trials, with no change in the incongruent trials).


Do irrelevant emotional stimuli impair or improve executive control?

Cohen N, Henik A - Front Integr Neurosci (2012)

Illustration of “impaired” (A,B) and “improved” (C,D) executive control following negative, compared to neutral, stimuli.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3376948&req=5

Figure 1: Illustration of “impaired” (A,B) and “improved” (C,D) executive control following negative, compared to neutral, stimuli.
Mentions: Figure 1 illustrates typical results (not based on empirical data) that can be found in experiments presenting negative and neutral stimuli prior to an executive task. Figures 1A,B demonstrate results suggesting impaired (i.e., larger congruity effect) EC, while Figures 1C,D demonstrate results suggesting improved (i.e., smaller congruity effect) EC following presentation of negative stimuli. A similar congruity effect is found in Figures 1A,B, and a similar congruity effect is found in Figures 1C,D. However, these similar effects are produced in different ways (e.g., the impaired congruity effect in Figure 1A is due to elongated RT in negative incongruent trials, whereas the impaired congruity effect in Figure 1B is due to facilitated RT in negative congruent trials, with no change in the incongruent trials).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Beer-Sheva, Israel.

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

This paper examines factors that mediate the influence of task-irrelevant negative stimuli on executive control (EC)... We recently showed that compared to neutral stimuli, negative stimuli delayed RTs for congruent flanker targets, but had no influence on incongruent targets (Cohen et al.,, )... Although these findings indicate a smaller congruity effect following negative stimuli, we did not interpret them as improved EC, but as attenuation of the emotional effect during conflict situations... In contrast, other studies interpreted results as being a consequence of impaired EC although their data did not show increased RTs for incongruent targets following negative stimuli... For example, examining RTs in the study of Dennis et al. may imply the increased congruity effect found after presentation of negative stimuli (and interpreted as impaired EC), resulted from facilitated RTs for negative compared to neutral stimuli in congruent trials, while RTs for incongruent trials following negative and neutral stimuli were very similar (Dennis et al., ; see Figure 1B)... These theories claim negative stimuli narrow attention and hence, reduce interference of distracting or irrelevant information (Derryberry and Tucker, ; Chajut and Algom, ; van Steenbergen et al., )... Indeed, a smaller congruity effect following negative compared to neutral stimuli is often driven by facilitation of incongruent targets (see example in Figure 1C), as a result of reduced attention to distractors (in the flanker task) or the irrelevant dimension (in the Stroop task)... Evidence regarding improved EC following presentation of negative stimuli is found in Birk et al. ’s study... The authors found reduced RTs for incongruent flanker targets following presentation of fearful compared to neutral faces (see Figure 1C)... Several other studies also suggested emotion improves EC (Dennis and Chen, ; Hu et al., ; Melcher et al., )... However, in contrast to Birk et al. ’s study, the reduced congruity effect in the latter studies did not result from reduced RTs in incongruent targets... In addition, we suggested that the use of difference scores (i.e., the congruity effect) might lead to different interpretations, even in face of similar data sets... We offer two important conclusions: The effect of emotion on EC is modulated by several factors... This effect is sometimes interpreted as impaired, and sometimes as improved EC, depending on the effect of emotion on congruent trials (compare Figures 1B,D, respectively)... This top-down effect should be directly examined by conducting a sequential analysis (Cohen et al., ) or by presenting the EC task before the emotional stimuli (Cohen et al., ).

No MeSH data available.