abstract Stefan Wiens

Stefan Wiens (Stockholm University)

Never mind what you are looking at: Event-related potential studies of emotional distracters at fixation

Humans benefit from attending to emotional stimuli because these stimuli may be relevant for their needs. However, if the emotional stimuli are irrelevant to their current goal, then these stimuli become distracters that might interfere with the goal-directed behavior. To study whether humans are able to ignore emotional distracters, we used event-related potentials (i.e., EPN and LPP) to index allocation of attentional resources to task-irrelevant, emotional distracters at fixation. Participants were shown emotional pictures at fixation but were told to ignore these distracters and instead focus on another task (e.g., to perform a discrimination task on peripheral letters). I will review studies on whether attentional effects of the emotional distracters at fixation can be eliminated, whether the valence and emotional intensity of the emotional distracters plays a role, and whether effects differ for task manipulations such as spatial attention, perceptual load, and working memory load.