Timecourse of Allocation of Attention by Emotional Visual Stimuli (PhD)

Emotions play a central role in human activity. They facilitate decision-making for a variety of situations that may require a fast reaction (e.g. avoidance, attack…). A part of the research on emotions has been focusing on the link between emotions and attention. It seems now clear that emotional stimuli can attract attention (see e.g. [1, 6]). Of particular interest to us is the experimental framework presented in [1]. In these experiments the participant is presented simultaneously an emotional and neutral picture parafoveally. Participants are asked to freely look at them while their eye movements is recorded. The main finding is that participants’ first fixation occurs more often on the emotional target than on the neutral one, even when they are instructed to attend the neutral picture only [5].
To better understand the timecourse of emotional processing, a subsequent number of Evoked Related Potential (ERP) studies on the processing of emo- tional stimuli have been carried out [7], mainly using single emotional images as stimuli. Different components of the waveform generated by emotional picture presentation have already been characterized and correlated with parameters of emotional stimuli (in particular valence and arousal). However, new exper- iments looking at how these different components are modulated by varying the task of the participant can give us insights about the stages of emotional processing and allocation of attention.

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Related Publications and Presentations

  • David J Acunzo, Graham MacKenzie, and Mark C W Van Rossum, “Systematic biases in early ERP and ERF components as a result of high-pass filtering”, Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 2012.

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