How automatic is “automatic” vigilance? The impact of working memory load on interference of negative information

L.F. van Dillen, S.L. Koole

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Abstract

    Whereas attentional interference of negative information has previously been assumed to be automatic, the present research hypothesised that this effect depends on the availability of working-memory resources. In two experiments, participants judged the gender of angry versus happy faces. Working-memory load was manipulated by the presence or absence of a math task (Study 1) or mental rehearsal of a one- versus 8-digit number (Study 2). The results showed that angry faces interfered more with gender naming than happy faces, but only when working-memory load was low. As such, attentional interference of negative stimulus features can be modulated by top-down attentional control processes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1106-1117
    JournalCognition and Emotion
    Volume23
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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