Disgust-specific modulation of early attention processes

J.C. van Hooff, M. van Buuringen, L. El M’rabet, M. de Gier, L. van Zalingen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although threatening images are known to attract and keep our attention, little is known about the existence of emotion-specific attention effects. In this study (N. = 46), characteristics of an anticipated, disgust-specific effect were investigated by means of a covert orienting paradigm incorporating pictures that were either disgust-evoking, fear-evoking, happiness-evoking or neutral. Attention adhesion to these pictures was measured by the time necessary to identify a peripheral target, presented 100, 200, 500, or 800. ms after picture onset. Main results showed that reaction times were delayed for targets following the disgust-evoking pictures by 100 and 200. ms, suggesting that only these pictures temporarily grabbed hold of participants' attention. These delays were similar for ignore- and attend-instructions, and they were not affected by the participants' anxiety levels or disgust sensitivity. The disgust-specific influence on early attention processes thus appeared very robust, occurring in the majority of participants and without contribution of voluntary- and strategic-attention processes. In contrast, a smaller and less reliable effect of all emotional (arousing) pictures was present in the form of delayed responding in the 100. ms cue-target interval. This effect was more transitory and apparent only in participants with relatively high state-anxiety scores. Practical and theoretical consequences of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-157
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number152
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Disgust-specific modulation of early attention processes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this