, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 699-703

Stop what you are not doing! Emotional pictures interfere with the task not to respond


Previous research has shown that emotional stimuli interfere with ongoing activities. One explanation is that these stimuli draw attention away from the primary task and thereby hamper the correct execution of the task. Another explanation is that emotional stimuli cause a temporary freezing of all ongoing activity. We used a go/ no-go task to differentiate between these accounts. According to the attention account, emotional distractors should impair performance on both go and no-go trials. According to the freezing account, the presentation of emotional stimuli should be detrimental to performance on go trials, but beneficial for performance on no-go trials. Our findings confirm the former prediction: Pictures high in emotional arousal impaired performance on no-go trials.

The preparation of the manuscript was supported by GOA Grant BOF/GOA2006/001 from Ghent University.