Attentional prioritisation of threatening information: Examining the role of the size of the attentional window

Notebaert, L., Crombez, G., Van Damme, S. Durnez, W. e Theeuwes. (2012). Attentional prioritisation of threatening information: Examining the role of the size of the attentional window. Cognition and Emotion.

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Abstract

In line with most models of emotion, research has shown that threatening information receives attentional priority over neutral information. Recently, it has been suggested that the degree to which participants divide their attention across the visual field (the attentional window) may modulate the extent to which salient objects are attentionally prioritised. In the current study, participants were required to identify a target inside one of a variable number of coloured circles.
One colour (Conditioned Stimulus, CS +) was fear-conditioned using an electrocutaneous stimulus at tolerance level. This search task was combined with a go/no-go task that required participants to either divide attention across the visual field to create a broad attentional window (global group), or focus their attention on the fixation point to create a narrow attentional window (local group). The results showed that only in the global group was the CS + colour prioritised over the neutral colours, indicating that a broader attentional window leads to enhanced attentional prioritisation of threat. Implications for research on attentional bias to threat are discussed.

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