Most aspects of the environment resonate with emotional meaning, so an understanding of perception in the real world necessitates understanding how it is impacted by emotion. This project investigates the mechanisms through which emotional stimuli influence conscious perception, as well as the degree to which such effects interact with emotional state. Departing from previous research related to this topic, which has traditionally limited itself to testing emotion's impact on spatial attention and early vision, the experiments in this proposal are designed to elucidate emotion's impact on mechanisms underlying the translation of early vision into conscious perception. It pursues this goal by capitalizing on powerful, well-studied visual cognitive phenomena, such as the """"""""attentional blink"""""""", """"""""object substitution masking"""""""", and """"""""apparent motion"""""""", all of which index mechanisms integral to the construction of conscious experience. This project will accomplish three specific aims: 1) It will characterize the manner in which emotional stimuli distort the time- course of perceptual mechanisms that support conscious perception;2) It will disentangle emotion's impact on spatial attention from its impact on mechanisms that translate early vision into conscious perception;and 3) It will elucidate the degree to which emotional state modulates the impact of emotional stimuli on such mechanisms. At the same time that these studies promise to illuminate mechanisms underlying emotion's impact on perception, the use of emotional stimuli to create perturbations in the perceptual system will provide further insights into the functional """"""""architecture"""""""" of visual information processing generally. In addition, by investigating the modulatory role of emotional state, this project will advance theoretical understanding of ways in which perceptual mechanisms might potentially differ between healthy populations and those with emotional disorders.

Public Health Relevance

Most aspects of the environment resonate with emotional meaning, so an understanding of perception in the real world necessitates understanding how it is impacted by emotion. By testing hypotheses about how emotion affects conscious perception, this project will elucidate mechanisms underlying emotion-related individual differences in how people literally see the world. In addition to informing theories about emotion-perception interactions, insights into how basic perceptual functions are influenced by emotion can provide clues regarding important visual cognitive differences between healthy populations and those with emotional disorders. Ultimately, such insights can potentially point the way towards effective treatments for emotional disorders, whether through targeted cognitive exercises, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or drug treatment (as different perceptual processes can be linked to different neural and neuro-chemical underpinnings).

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
Program Officer
Simmons, Janine M
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University of Delaware
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Kennedy, Briana L; Most, Steven B (2015) The Rapid Perceptual Impact of Emotional Distractors. PLoS One 10:e0129320
Kennedy, Briana L; Rawding, Jennifer; Most, Steven B et al. (2014) Emotion-induced blindness reflects competition at early and late processing stages: an ERP study. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 14:1485-98
Kristjansson, Arni; Oladottir, Berglind; Most, Steven B (2013) ""Hot"" facilitation of ""cool"" processing: emotional distraction can enhance priming of visual search. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 39:298-306
Kennedy, Briana L; Most, Steven B (2012) Perceptual, not memorial, disruption underlies emotion-induced blindness. Emotion 12:199-202
Wang, Lingling; Kennedy, Briana L; Most, Steven B (2012) When emotion blinds: a spatiotemporal competition account of emotion-induced blindness. Front Psychol 3:438
Most, Steven B; Wang, Lingling (2011) Dissociating spatial attention and awareness in emotion-induced blindness. Psychol Sci 22:300-5