Prioritization and Interference of Emotional Information in Briefly Presented Scenes: Selection Advantage for Positive Emotional Scenes
Previous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the attentional prioritization of emotional information over neutral information. However, the parsing of interference from negative and positive stimuli has not received the same attention. In the study reported here, we examined the effect of real-world visual scenes of neutral, positive, and negative valence, as well as the effect of both high- and low-arousal (differentially categorized based on their arousal and valence ratings) on scene gist identification. Using a partial-report paradigm, participants were asked to report the gist of a post-cued scene from a briefly-presented array of four scenes. Scene gist identification performance was significantly higher for positive scenes, regardless of arousal, than for negative scenes. All emotional scenes, regardless of valence and arousal, interfered with reporting the gist of neutral scenes. The findings support the hypothesis that emotional scenes more often interfere with processing of neutral scenes and are selectively attended to during briefly-presented scene arrays. Moreover, the results suggest that the identification and the interference of positive, high-arousal scenes are prioritized in visual information processing.
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