Emotional Consequences of Expending Perceptual Effort

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

Emma Wiedenmann1 (), Julia Danett1, Myeong-Ho Sohn1; 1The George Washington University

Cognitive effort, or the amount of mental energy it takes to complete a task, has paradoxical consequences. Empirically, the emotional consequence of processing effort is task-dependent (Tae et al., 2021). However, cognitive conflict resolution is not the only process demanding cognitive resources. Notably, perceptual effort influences different processing stages, with cognitive conflict resolution demanding computation and perceptual effort demanding encoding. For example, the word “BROCHURE” will be encoded more easily than “BROCHURE”, although the cognitive demand is the same once encoding is successful (Dreisbach & Fischer, 2012). The current study examined whether perceptual effort induces, and if so, whether such influence is task-dependent. Using an immediate priming paradigm, participants performed a prime task with a male or female face, presented in either clear condition or blurry condition. The prime task was followed by a target task which is to recognize emotion from a different face. In Experiment 1, the prime task was to view a perceptually effortful (i.e., blurry) or effortless (i.e., clear) face stimulus passively. In Experiment 2, the prime task was to respond to the perceptual quality of the prime stimulus (e.g., clear or blurry). In Experiment 3, the prime task was to overcome perceptual difficulty and as the participants had to judge the apparent gender of the prime stimulus (e.g., female or male). In the passive viewing task, the perceptual fluency significantly modulated the emotion processing; positive emotions were processed faster after clear trials in comparison to blurry trials. The other two experiments showed no significant interaction between perceptual fluency and emotion response. These results suggest that perceptual effort is subjected to the same emotional process as cognitive effort and is task-dependent.