Event Title

Failure of Visual Attention to Recover from Threat Distracters

Mentor 1

Christine Larson

Location

Union Wisconsin Room

Start Date

24-4-2015 10:30 AM

End Date

24-4-2015 11:45 AM

Description

Failure of Visual Attention to Recover from Threat Distracters / Gorgas, Jeremy (Student), Larson, Christine (Faculty Sponsor), Speech, Catherine, Stout, Daniel / Affective Neuroscience Lab – Department of Psychology / INTRODUCTION: Certain forms of distracting information necessitate the reorienting of attention, temporarily disrupting on-going behavior. This is critical for determining the biological and motivational relevance of distracting stimuli, and whether it warrants further processing. Although it may be adaptive to halt goal-directed action to attend to distracting stimuli, it is also necessary to disengage further processing once it is deemed irrelevant. However, if the distracting and task-irrelevant stimulus is potentially threatening, further attentional processing is necessary to ascertain whether a defensive response is prudent — resulting in prolonged distraction and disruption of goal-related attention. PURPOSE: The primary aim of the current study was to determine the time-course of attentional recovery from distraction and whether this depends upon the threat-level assigned to the distracters. HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesized that attention would recover when the temporal-distance between the distracter and target was long and only when the distracter was non-threatening (i.e., safe). In contrast, we predicted that if the distracter is threat-related, attention would remain fixated on the distracter. METHODS: A sample of undergraduate college students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee participated in this study. To assess recovery from attentional distraction, we adapted a visual search task from Sheppes et al. (2013). In this task, a distracter stimulus (safe vs. threat) was briefly presented. Distracters associated with electric stimulation were used to assign threat significance. Following a variable stimulus-onset-asynchrony (SOA), which is the time between the distracter and the target array (50 ms vs. 350 ms), participants were required to respond accurately to a target color presented among other non-targets in a visual search array. RESULTS: Results showed that performance accuracy decreased for both safe and threat-related distracters when the SOA between the distracter and visual search array was short (50 ms). For safe distracters only, performance recovered to baseline levels when the SOA was long (350 ms). In contrast, performance failed to recover at the long SOA for threat-distracters. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings replicate a previous study showing that attention remains fixated on the threat-related distracters (Sheppes et al., 2013). Failure of attention to recover from threat-related distracters may have provided an evolutionary-important survival mechanism necessary to quickly and effectively respond to potential threats in the environment. Future research is needed to determine the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying this process and whether individual differences in anxious temperament moderate this effect. /

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Apr 24th, 10:30 AM Apr 24th, 11:45 AM

Failure of Visual Attention to Recover from Threat Distracters

Union Wisconsin Room

Failure of Visual Attention to Recover from Threat Distracters / Gorgas, Jeremy (Student), Larson, Christine (Faculty Sponsor), Speech, Catherine, Stout, Daniel / Affective Neuroscience Lab – Department of Psychology / INTRODUCTION: Certain forms of distracting information necessitate the reorienting of attention, temporarily disrupting on-going behavior. This is critical for determining the biological and motivational relevance of distracting stimuli, and whether it warrants further processing. Although it may be adaptive to halt goal-directed action to attend to distracting stimuli, it is also necessary to disengage further processing once it is deemed irrelevant. However, if the distracting and task-irrelevant stimulus is potentially threatening, further attentional processing is necessary to ascertain whether a defensive response is prudent — resulting in prolonged distraction and disruption of goal-related attention. PURPOSE: The primary aim of the current study was to determine the time-course of attentional recovery from distraction and whether this depends upon the threat-level assigned to the distracters. HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesized that attention would recover when the temporal-distance between the distracter and target was long and only when the distracter was non-threatening (i.e., safe). In contrast, we predicted that if the distracter is threat-related, attention would remain fixated on the distracter. METHODS: A sample of undergraduate college students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee participated in this study. To assess recovery from attentional distraction, we adapted a visual search task from Sheppes et al. (2013). In this task, a distracter stimulus (safe vs. threat) was briefly presented. Distracters associated with electric stimulation were used to assign threat significance. Following a variable stimulus-onset-asynchrony (SOA), which is the time between the distracter and the target array (50 ms vs. 350 ms), participants were required to respond accurately to a target color presented among other non-targets in a visual search array. RESULTS: Results showed that performance accuracy decreased for both safe and threat-related distracters when the SOA between the distracter and visual search array was short (50 ms). For safe distracters only, performance recovered to baseline levels when the SOA was long (350 ms). In contrast, performance failed to recover at the long SOA for threat-distracters. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings replicate a previous study showing that attention remains fixated on the threat-related distracters (Sheppes et al., 2013). Failure of attention to recover from threat-related distracters may have provided an evolutionary-important survival mechanism necessary to quickly and effectively respond to potential threats in the environment. Future research is needed to determine the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying this process and whether individual differences in anxious temperament moderate this effect. /