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Blind to threat: the presence of temporary goals prevents attention to imminent threat already at early stages of attention allocation

Forrest, J., Vogt, J. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3178-2805, Mcdonald, C., Searle, C. and Sakaki, M. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1993-5765 (2021) Blind to threat: the presence of temporary goals prevents attention to imminent threat already at early stages of attention allocation. Motivation Science. ISSN 2333-8121 (In Press)

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Abstract/Summary

Human attention is biased by several motivational factors. For instance, threat attracts attention. People also preferentially pay attention to goal-relevant stimuli even when they are not emotional. How is attention allocated when individuals encounter multiple stimuli with different motivational salience that compete for limited attentional resources? Recent evidence suggests that neutral but goal-relevant stimuli are prioritized over threat when they are simultaneously presented. However, the role of strategic attentional processes in this bias is unknown. To address this issue, we conducted two studies that presented goal-relevant and fear-conditioned threatening stimuli in a dot probe paradigm at early (30 ms) and later stages (250 ms) of attentional processing. Across both studies, attention was allocated to goal-relevant stimuli over threatening stimuli at both presentation times. However, attentional bias to goal-relevant stimuli was larger at later stages of attentional processing. Further, attention to goals over threat was reduced in people high in trait anxiety in the main study. These findings corroborate the conclusion that temporary goals determine attention allocation in a relatively automatic manner, but the influence of goals is stronger at later stages of attention allocation.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Perception and Action
ID Code:101787
Publisher:American Psychological Association

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