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The effect of cognitive load in emotional attention and trait anxiety: an eye movement study

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Abstract
There is extensive debate on the automaticity of attentional processing of emotional information. One core feature of automaticity is the independence of processing emotion from factors that can affect attention such as cognitive load. In the present study we investigated whether processing of emotional facial expressions was dependent on cognitive load using a visual search paradigm. Manual responses as well as eye movements were recorded. Although both measures showed that emotional information captured attention more strongly than neutral information, manual responses indicated that load slowed reaction times only for "pop-out" emotion conditions; no increase was seen for all-emotional displays. This suggests that the saliency of emotion was reduced, but eye movement data showed that effects were caused by improvements for all-emotional displays in target processing efficiency. Additionally, trait anxiety did not influence threat processing, but costs were observed under load that were not present for nonanxious subjects. Our results suggest that while load can interfere with task performance, it may not affect emotion processing. Our findings highlight the importance of eye movement measures in accounting for differences in manual response data and provide novel support to theories of anxiety.
Keywords
STIMULI, VISUAL-ATTENTION, SELECTIVE ATTENTION, THREAT, PROCESSING EFFICIENCY, PERFORMANCE, BIAS, INDIVIDUALS, DISENGAGEMENT, AVOIDANCE, Anxiety, Attention, Emotion, Eye movement, Visual search

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Citation

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Chicago
Berggren, Nick, Ernst Koster, and Nazanin Derakshan. 2012. “The Effect of Cognitive Load in Emotional Attention and Trait Anxiety: An Eye Movement Study.” Journal of Cognitive Psychology 24 (1): 79–91.
APA
Berggren, N., Koster, E., & Derakshan, N. (2012). The effect of cognitive load in emotional attention and trait anxiety: an eye movement study. JOURNAL OF COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY, 24(1), 79–91.
Vancouver
1.
Berggren N, Koster E, Derakshan N. The effect of cognitive load in emotional attention and trait anxiety: an eye movement study. JOURNAL OF COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY. 2012;24(1):79–91.
MLA
Berggren, Nick, Ernst Koster, and Nazanin Derakshan. “The Effect of Cognitive Load in Emotional Attention and Trait Anxiety: An Eye Movement Study.” JOURNAL OF COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 24.1 (2012): 79–91. Print.
@article{2071732,
  abstract     = {There is extensive debate on the automaticity of attentional processing of emotional information. One core feature of automaticity is the independence of processing emotion from factors that can affect attention such as cognitive load. In the present study we investigated whether processing of emotional facial expressions was dependent on cognitive load using a visual search paradigm. Manual responses as well as eye movements were recorded. Although both measures showed that emotional information captured attention more strongly than neutral information, manual responses indicated that load slowed reaction times only for {\textacutedbl}pop-out{\textacutedbl} emotion conditions; no increase was seen for all-emotional displays. This suggests that the saliency of emotion was reduced, but eye movement data showed that effects were caused by improvements for all-emotional displays in target processing efficiency. Additionally, trait anxiety did not influence threat processing, but costs were observed under load that were not present for nonanxious subjects. Our results suggest that while load can interfere with task performance, it may not affect emotion processing. Our findings highlight the importance of eye movement measures in accounting for differences in manual response data and provide novel support to theories of anxiety.},
  author       = {Berggren, Nick and Koster, Ernst and Derakshan, Nazanin},
  issn         = {2044-5911},
  journal      = {JOURNAL OF COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY},
  keyword      = {STIMULI,VISUAL-ATTENTION,SELECTIVE ATTENTION,THREAT,PROCESSING EFFICIENCY,PERFORMANCE,BIAS,INDIVIDUALS,DISENGAGEMENT,AVOIDANCE,Anxiety,Attention,Emotion,Eye movement,Visual search},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {79--91},
  title        = {The effect of cognitive load in emotional attention and trait anxiety: an eye movement study},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20445911.2011.618450},
  volume       = {24},
  year         = {2012},
}

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