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  • Feature-based inhibition underlies the affective consequences of attention

    12 July 2018

    Rapid selection of a target in the presence of similar distractors can cause subsequent affective evaluation of a distractor to be more negative than that for the selected object. This distractor devaluation effect has previously been attributed to an association of attentional inhibition with the distractor's representation. Here, we investigated whether the associated inhibition leading to distractor devaluation is object based or feature based. Using colour-tinted face and building stimuli in a two-item simple visual search, followed by evaluation of face stimuli on a trustworthiness scale, we report that emotional evaluation was modified by prior attention whenever the search stimuli and the to-be-evaluated face shared the distractor feature, regardless of whether face identity seen in the two successive tasks matched or not. These data support the notion that inhibition can be feature-based and show that such inhibition can have emotional consequences.

  • Influence of attentional demands on the processing of emotional facial expressions in the amygdala

    12 July 2018

    Recent studies have cast doubts on the appealing idea that the processing of threat-related stimuli in the amygdala is unconstrained by the availability of attentional resources. However, these studies exclusively used face stimuli presented at fixation and it is unclear whether their conclusion can apply to peripheral face stimuli. Thus, we designed an experiment in which we manipulated the perceptual attentional load of the task used to divert attention from peripheral face stimuli: participants were presented simultaneously with four peripheral pictures (two faces, either both neutral or both fearful, and two houses) that were slightly tilted, and had to match two of these pictures (defined by their position on the screen) either for orientation of the tilt or for identity. The identity task was confirmed to involve greater attentional load than the orientation task by differences in accuracy, reaction times, subsequent face recognition performance, and patterns of activation in several cortical regions. In the orientation task, ignored fearful faces led to stronger activation in the right amygdala than ignored neutral faces. However, this differential response was abolished when participants performed the difficult identity-matching task. Thus, emotional processing of peripheral faces in the amygdala also appears to depend on the available perceptual attentional resources. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

  • Modelling distractor devaluation (DD) and its neurophysiological correlates

    12 July 2018

    A series of recent studies have shown that selective attention can influence the emotional value of both selected as well as ignored items. Specifically, ignored items (distractors) were consistently rated less positively in emotional evaluations, following attentional selection, relative to (typically) simultaneously presented items (targets). Furthermore, a known electrophysiological index of attentional selectivity (N2pc) was shown to correlate with the magnitude of the observed 'distractor devaluation' (DD). A neural model is presented here to account for these findings by means of a plausible mechanism linking attentional processes to emotional evaluations. This mechanism relies on the transformation of attentional inhibition of the distractor into a reduction of the value of that distractor. The model is successful in reproducing the existent behavioural results as well as the observed link between the magnitude of the attentional N2pc and the magnitude of DD. Moreover, the model proposes a series of testable hypotheses as well as specific predictions that call for further experimental investigation. © 2009.

  • Efficient attentional selection predicts distractor devaluation: Event-related potential evidence for a direct link between attention and emotion

    12 July 2018

    Links between attention and emotion were investigated by obtaining electrophysiological measures of attentional selectivity together with behavioral measures of affective evaluation. Participants were asked to rate faces that had just been presented as targets or distractors in a visual search task. Distractors were rated as less trustworthy than targets. To study the association between the efficiency of selective attention during visual search and subsequent emotional responses, the N2pc component was quantified as a function of evaluative judgments. Evaluation of distractor faces (but not target faces) covaried with selective attention. On trials where distractors were later judged negatively, the N2pc emerged earlier, demonstrating that attention was strongly biased toward target events, and distractors were effectively inhibited. When previous distractors were judged positively, the N2pc was delayed, indicating unfocused attention to the target and less distractor suppression. Variations in attentional selectivity across trials can predict subsequent emotional responses, strongly suggesting that attention is closely associated with subsequent affective evaluation. © 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Supraliminal but not subliminal distracters bias working memory recall

    12 July 2018

    © 2015 The Author(s). Information of which observers are not consciously aware can nevertheless influence perceptual processes. Whether subliminal information might exert an influence on working memory (WM) representations is less clear, and relatively few studies have examined the interactions between subliminal and supraliminal information in WM. We present 3 experiments examining this issue. Experiments 1a and b replicated the finding that orientation stimuli can influence behavior subliminally in a visuomotor priming task. Experiments 2 and 3 used the same orientation stimuli, but participants had to remember a target orientation and report it back by adjusting a probe orientation after a memory delay. Before or after presentation of the target orientation, a subliminal or supraliminal distracter orientation was presented that was either irrelevant for task completion and never had to be reported (Experiment 2), or was relevant for task completion because it had to be reported on some trials (Experiment 3). In both experiments, presentation of a supraliminal distracter influenced WM recall of the target orientation. When the distracter was presented subliminally, however, there was no bias in orientation recall. These results suggest that information stored in WM is protected from influences of subliminal stimuli, while online information processing is modulated by subliminal information.

  • Age group and individual differences in attentional orienting dissociate neural mechanisms of encoding and maintenance in visual STM

    12 July 2018

    Selective attention biases the encoding and maintenance of representations in visual STM (VSTM). However, precise attentional mechanisms gating encoding and maintenance in VSTM and across development remain less well understood. We recorded EEG while adults and 10-year-olds used cues to guide attention before encoding or while maintaining items in VSTM. Known neural markers of spatial orienting to incoming percepts, that is, Early Directing Attention Negativity, Anterior Directing Attention Negativity, and Late Directing Attention Positivity, were examined in the context of orienting within VSTM. Adults elicited a set of neural markers that were broadly similar in preparation for encoding and during maintenance. In contrast, in children these processes dissociated. Furthermore, in children, individual differences in the amplitude of neural markers of prospective orienting related to individual differences in VSTM capacity, suggesting that children with high capacity are more efficient at selecting information for encoding into VSTM. Finally, retrospective, but not prospective, orienting in both age groups elicited the well-known marker of visual search (N2pc), indicating the recruitment of additional neural circuits when orienting during maintenance. Developmental and individual differences differentiate seemingly similar processes of orienting to perceptually available representations and to representations held in VSTM. © 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Reward boosts working memory encoding over a brief temporal window

    12 July 2018

    © 2015 Taylor & Francis. Selection mechanisms for WM are ordinarily studied by explicitly cueing a subset of memory items. However, we might also expect the reward associations of stimuli we encounter to modulate their probability of being represented in working memory (WM). Theoretical and computational models explicitly predict that reward value should determine which items will be gated into WM. For example, a model by Braver and colleagues in which phasic dopamine signalling gates WM updating predicts a temporally-specific but not item-specific reward-driven boost to encoding. In contrast, Hazy and colleagues invoke reinforcement learning in cortico-striatal loops and predict an item-wise reward-driven encoding bias. Furthermore, a body of prior work has demonstrated that reward-associated items can capture attention, and it has been shown that attentional capture biases WM encoding. We directly investigated the relationship between reward history and WM encoding. In our first experiment, we found an encoding benefit associated with reward-associated items, but the benefit generalized to all items in the memory array. In a second experiment this effect was shown to be highly temporally specific. We speculate that in real-world contexts in which the environment is sampled sequentially with saccades/shifts in attention, this mechanism could effectively mediate an item-wise encoding bias, because encoding boosts would occur when rewarded items were fixated.

  • Orienting Attention Within Visual Short-Term Memory: Development and Mechanisms

    12 July 2018

    How does developing attentional control operate within visual short-term memory (VSTM)? Seven-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and adults (total n = 205) were asked to report whether probe items were part of preceding visual arrays. In Experiment 1, central or peripheral cues oriented attention to the location of to-be-probed items either prior to encoding or during maintenance. Cues improved memory regardless of their position, but younger children benefited less from cues presented during maintenance, and these benefits related to VSTM span over and above basic memory in uncued trials. In Experiment 2, cues of low validity eliminated benefits, suggesting that even the youngest children use cues voluntarily, rather than automatically. These findings elucidate the close coupling between developing visuospatial attentional control and VSTM. © 2013 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

  • Failure to perceive clinical events: An under-recognised source of error

    12 July 2018

    Introduction: Attentional focus narrows as individuals concentrate on tasks. Missing an event that would otherwise appear obvious is termed a perceptual error. These forms of perceptual failure are well-recognised in psychological literature, but little attention has been paid to them in medicine. Cognitive workload and expertise modulate risk, although how these factors interplay in practice is unclear. This video-based experiment was designed to explore the hypothesis that perceptual errors affect clinicians. Methods: 142 volunteers with varying levels of experience of adult resuscitation were shown a short video depicting a simulated cardiac arrest. This video included a series of change-events designed to elicit perceptual errors. The experiment was conducted on-line, with participants watching the video and then responding via combinations of open-ended free-text and directed questioning. Results: 141 people experienced at least a single perceptual error. Even the most clinically significant event (disconnection of the patient's oxygen supply) was missed by three in four viewers. Although expertise was associated with increased likelihood of detecting an occurrence, even highly significant events were missed by up to two thirds of the most experienced observers. Discussion: This study demonstrates, for the first time, that perceptual errors occur during healthcare-relevant scenarios at significant levels. Events such as an oxygen malfunction would meaningfully affect patient outcome and, although expertise conferred some advantages, events were still missed more often than not. Data acquisition is fundamental to good-quality situational awareness. These results suggest perceptual error may be a contributor to adverse events in practice. © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.