Don't look back: Retroactive, dynamic costs and benefits of emotional capture

Steven B. Most, Justin Jungé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


When people search for targets within rapid streams of images, irrelevant emotional distractors - relative to neutral distractors - spontaneously demand attention and impair subsequent target detection, an effect that can be likened to an emotion-induced "attentional blink". But what happens when emotional distractors appear after a target has already come and gone? Here, we describe new findings of retroactive emotion-induced effects on target awareness. First, emotion-induced impairments of target awareness extended even to targets that appeared immediately before emotional distractors (Experiment 1). Second, when targets preceded distractors by two items - rather than by one item - negative distractors led to enhanced target processing relative to when distractors were neutral (Experiment 2). In contrast, when a target appeared after an emotional distractor, target awareness was impaired regardless of whether it was the first or second subsequent item. These results potentially implicate separable impacts of emotion on target processing, which can be distinguished by their facilitatory versus disruptive effects and by their temporal dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-278
Number of pages17
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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