The Temporal Features of Emotional Capture of Attention: Determining the Time Course of the Emotional Attentional Blink
Within a variety of stimuli, we selectively attend to the most emotionally relevant, often at a cost to the processing of the other stimuli. The emotional attentional blink (EAB) is an effect in which emotional distractor images capture attention for several hundred milliseconds so that individuals cannot detect subsequent target images. In this study, we hoped to pinpoint the time course of the emotional capture of attention by creating a multi-target design based on Most and colleagues’ (2005) original EAB study. In Experiment 1, letters were presented on images following the distractor, and participants were asked to report which letter they first recalled seeing. We found that emotional distractor images, including erotic and gory conditions, induced greater deficits than non-emotional distractor images. In Experiment 2, participants reported not only the first letter they saw, but also the last number (presented before the distractor image) they saw. The task in Experiment 2 suggests an EAB that lasts between 200-400 ms. However, the use of two processing streams (the letters and images) suggests that modality serves an important role in the mechanisms of the EAB.