Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 80, Issue 5, pp 1072–1082 | Cite as

The effect of sadness on global-local processing

  • Adrian von Mühlenen
  • Lauren Bellaera
  • Amrendra Singh
  • Narayanan Srinivasan
Registered Reports and Replications


Gable and Harmon-Jones (Psychological Science, 21(2), 211-215, 2010) reported that sadness broadens attention in a global-local letter task. This finding provided the key test for their motivational intensity account, which states that the level of spatial processing is not determined by emotional valence, but by motivational intensity. However, their finding is at odds with several other studies, showing no effect, or even a narrowing effect of sadness on attention. This paper reports two attempts to replicate the broadening effect of sadness on attention. Both experiments used a global-local letter task, but differed in terms of emotion induction: Experiment 1 used the same pictures as Gable and Harmon-Jones, taken from the IAPS dataset; Experiment 2 used a sad video underlaid with sad music. Results showed a sadness-specific global advantage in the error rates, but not in the reaction times. The same null results were also found in a South-Asian sample in both experiments, showing that effects on global/local processing were not influenced by a culturally related processing bias.


Sadness Global-local processing Emotion induction 


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian von Mühlenen
    • 1
  • Lauren Bellaera
    • 2
  • Amrendra Singh
    • 3
  • Narayanan Srinivasan
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Centre of Behavioural and Cognitive SciencesUniversity of AllahabadAllahabadIndia

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