Memory & Cognition

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 182–200

Capturing and holding attention: The impact of emotional words in rapid serial visual presentation

  • Karen J. Mathewson
  • Karen M. Arnell
  • Craig A. Mansfield
Article

DOI: 10.3758/MC.36.1.182

Cite this article as:
Mathewson, K.J., Arnell, K.M. & Mansfield, C.A. Memory & Cognition (2008) 36: 182. doi:10.3758/MC.36.1.182
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Abstract

When two masked, to-be-attended targets are presented within approximately 500 msec of each other, accurate report of the second target (T2) suffers more than when targets are presented farther apart in time—an attentional blink (AB). In the present study, the AB was found to be larger when taboo words were presented as a first target (T1), as compared with the AB found when emotionally neutral, negative, or positive words were presented as T1, suggesting that taboo words received preferential attentional processing. Comparable results were also obtained when taboo words were presented as to-be-ignored distractors in single-target rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). Arousal, but not valence, ratings of the emotional words predicted accuracy on subsequent targets in both dual- and single-task RSVP. Recognition memory for taboo words accounted fully for the negative relationships between arousal ratings and accuracy on subsequent targets, suggesting that arousal-triggered changes in attentional allocation influenced encoding of taboo words at the time they were encountered.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen J. Mathewson
    • 1
  • Karen M. Arnell
    • 1
  • Craig A. Mansfield
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada