Can foreknowledge of distractor type reduce the emotion-induced blindness effect?

Poster Presentation: Wednesday, May 22, 2024, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Attention: Reward, motivation, emotion

Ho Ming Chan1 (), Jeffrey Saunders1; 1The University of Hong Kong

This study tests whether foreknowledge of distractor type can reduce the emotion-induced blindness (EIB) effect caused by erotic images. A previous study found that warning about the incoming emotional distractor improved target detection and reduced EIB. One explanation is that foreknowledge allows subjects to better prepare for the distractor and apply proactive inhibition. Another explanation is that the warning encourages more effort. To distinguish these potential explanations, we tested a wrong-warning condition in addition to the correct-warning and no-warning conditions. We performed a preregistered experiment with N=56 subjects. Two types of distractor images were presented in RSVP streams: erotic images and neutral images of people. In most trials with a warning before the RSVP stream (80%), the warning was consistent with the incoming distractor type (correct-warning condition). In remaining warning trials (20%), the warning was inconsistent with the incoming distractor type (wrong-warning condition). In the no-warning condition, only the word “unknown” was shown. If the previously observed benefit of warning was due to the distractor foreknowledge, higher accuracy would only be observed in the correct-warning condition. If the benefit was due to the increased effort, higher accuracy would be observed in both the correct and wrong-warning conditions. Contrary to these hypotheses, neither warning condition showed a benefit compared to the no-warning condition. In all conditions, erotic images impaired detection of target images after a 200ms lag. There was a trend toward higher accuracy with correct warning, suggesting that foreknowledge might provide a small benefit. Unlike the previous experiment, we did not include a baseline condition, so subjects might have exerted higher effort in all our conditions. We were not able to replicate an effect of warning on EIB, and our results suggest that knowing the distractor type provides little or no reduction in the EIB effect.

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by a grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, GRF 1740914