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Safety first: instrumentality for reaching safety determines attention allocation under threat

Vogt, J., Koster, E. H.W. and De Houwer, J. (2017) Safety first: instrumentality for reaching safety determines attention allocation under threat. Emotion, 17 (3). pp. 528-537. ISSN 1931-1516

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1037/emo0000251

Abstract/Summary

Theories of attention to emotional information suggest that attentional processes prioritize threatening information. Here, we suggest that attention will prioritize the events that are most instrumental to a goal in a given context, which in threatening situations typically is reaching safety. To test our hypotheses, we used an attentional cueing paradigm that contained cues signaling imminent threat (i.e., aversive noises) as well as cues that allowed to avoid threat (instrumental safety signals). Correct reactions to instrumental safety signals seemingly allowed participants to lower the presentation rate of the threat. Experiment 1 demonstrates that attention prioritizes instrumental safety signals over threat signals. Experiment 2 replicates this finding and additionally compares instrumental safety signals to other action-relevant signals controlling for action relevance as cause of the effects. Experiment 3 demonstrates that when actions towards threat signals permit to avoid threat, attention prioritizes threat signals. Taken together, these re-sults support the view that instrumentality for reaching safety determines the allocation of attention under threat.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Perception and Action
ID Code:67428
Publisher:American Psychological Association

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