Selective Control of Attention to Emotionally Salient Stimuli
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Selective attention may be an effective strategy for regulating emotions. The current study measured selective attention to emotional pictures in healthy adults using a novel computerized task. Participants saw pictorial cues on the right or left of the screen, followed by target words on the same or opposite side. Participants were divided into two groups. The suppress group had to avoid looking at pictures (cues), whereas the attend group had to look at them. Both groups categorized targets as indoor or outdoor words. Subsequent cue/target recognition tests were administered. Performance on both tasks was assessed by picture valence, revealing reduced inhibitory control to negative picture and difficulties reorienting to negatively cued locations. These findings contribute to our understanding of affective-attentional interactions in healthy adults. Moreover, the apparent inability to avoid looking at negative items may highlight a need to explore other emotion regulation techniques.