Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The influence of emotion on attention: Examining the processing of negative and positive emotion words in the dot probe task
by Sutton, Tina M., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2010, 106; 3403000
Abstract (Summary)

The influence of emotion on attention has been examined more closely in recent years using a variety of paradigms. Öhman (1993) suggested that participants more readily pay attention to negative information than neutral information. The current work was designed to expand upon these findings by examining both negative and positive emotion word processing in a non-clinical population using the dot probe task. Experiments 1a and 1b examined the supraliminal and subliminal processing of negative and positive emotion words presented in separate blocks. The results revealed that participants responded faster to the probe when it appeared in the same location as the negative emotion word relative to when it appeared in the same location as an emotionally neutral word, but were equally fast at responding to the probe when it appeared in the same location as the positive emotion word or neutral word. These effects occurred regardless of whether the words were presented with or without a mask. These findings suggest that negative emotion words automatically capture attention even for non-clinical samples and even when they are presented below the threshold of conscious awareness, indicating that this is a robust and automatic effect. In Experiments 2a and 2b, the negative and positive words were intermixed within the same block. When the words were masked, the results revealed faster processing of the probe when it appeared in the same location as either a negative word or a positive word, relative to when it appeared in the same location as a neutral word; however, when the words were presented without a mask, the probe was processed equally fast regardless of whether it appeared in the same location as a negative or positive emotion word or a neutral word. The findings from Experiment 2b also indicate that positive words have the ability to automatically capture attention and influence subsequent processing when they are presented below the threshold of awareness. In addition, the hemispheric processing of the two word types was also examined. The results from Experiments 1a and 1b supported the Right Hemisphere Hypothesis (RHH), indicating that the negative and positive words were processed more efficiently in the left visual field (LVF). In Experiments 2a and 2b, the RHH was supported when the words were masked, but the Valence Specific Hypothesis (VSH) was supported when the words were presented without a mask. Specifically, the positive words were processed more efficiently in the right visual field (RVF), a left hemisphere (LH) processing advantage. The findings from the current work suggest that whether or not a positive or negative emotion word captures attention and is preferentially processed by the right hemisphere (RH) of the brain depends in a complex way on conscious vs. unconscious processing of the emotion word and whether the positive and negative emotion words are intermixed or presented in separate blocks.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Altarriba, Jeanette
Commitee: Meuter, Renata, Neely, James H.
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Psychology-Cognitive/Development
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 71/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Attention, Emotion, Hemispheric processing, Masking
Publication Number: 3403000
ISBN: 9781109758412