Psicothema was founded in Asturias (northern Spain) in 1989, and is published jointly by the Psychology Faculty of the University of Oviedo and the Psychological Association of the Principality of Asturias (Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos del Principado de Asturias).
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Psicothema, 2010. Vol. Vol. 22 (nº 3). 443-448

How spatial attention and attentional resources influence the processing of emotional visual scenes

Aida Gutiérrez García and Manuel G. Calvo

Universidad de La Laguna

Pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant pictures appeared for 150 ms in either peripheral or foveal vision, with or without a concurrent foveal load task. Participants indicated whether the visual scene in the picture was or was not pleasant, or was or was not unpleasant. The manipulation of picture location (foveal vs. peripheral) aimed to tap spatial attention, while the perceptual load task was used to manipulate the availability of attentional resources. Results showed that emotional valence was discriminated above the chance level even in the attentionally-constrained conditions (peripheral presentation combined with perceptual load). Nevertheless, valence encoding depended on both attentional mechanisms, as indicated by reductions in accuracy and by slowed reaction times in valence identification when attention was allocated elsewhere, relative to when the scene appeared at fixation and when there was no concurrent task. This indicates that emotional processing requires attention.

Cómo la atención espacial y los recursos atencionales influyen en el procesamiento de escenas visuales emocionales. Se presentaron imágenes con valencia emocional positiva, neutra o negativa durante 150 milisegundos en visión periférica o foveal. Los participantes respondían si eran agradables o no, o si eran desagradables o no. Mediante la ubicación periférica o foveal de las imágenes se manipuló su acceso a la atención espacial; mediante la presencia de una tarea concurrente se manipuló la disponibilidad de recursos atencionales. Los resultados indicaron que la valencia emocional de las imágenes se discriminó incluso en las condiciones mayor restricción de la atención. No obstante, se produjeron decrementos en la probabilidad de identificar la valencia correcta y también aumentos en los tiempos de identificación tanto en la condición de presentación periférica como en la de tarea concurrente. Esto indica que el procesamiento de la valencia emocional no es automático, sino que depende de la atención espacial y de los recursos atencionales.


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