Facilitation and interference of behavioral responses by task-irrelevant affect-laden stimuli
Emotional interference on behavior is commonly observed when task-irrelevant negative stimuli appear before behavioral targets. One explanation postulates that affect-laden stimuli readily capture attention, interfering with the processing of the upcoming target. Emotional stimuli might also preactivate motor programs incompatible with the demanded response. Using a cued go/no-go procedure we showed that task-irrelevant unpleasant stimuli cause interference or facilitation depending on their onset asynchrony relative to the target. We observed interference with short (200 ms) stimulus-target asynchronies and facilitation for longer ones (600 ms), both for key press (Experiment 1) and key release (Experiment 2) responses. The interference effect is compatible with an attentional explanation, but the behavioral facilitation is hard to accommodate within either attentional or motor accounts. This interference-facilitation pattern can be explained assuming that once the attentional effect subsides, emotional processing may enhance the perceptual processing of the stimuli, or lower the decision threshold, thereby facilitating the response selection process.
KeywordsEmotion Attention Motor Perception Decision-making
This work was supported by the Junta de Andalucía (P06-HUM02375 and P09-SEJ-4752) and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (SEJ2006-11906/PSIC and PSI2009-12217) grants to Andrés Catena and Antonio Maldonado, respectively.
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