In this study, we examined the effect of threatening pictures (e.g., snakes and spiders) on control of spatial attention using a probe detection task. In addition to attentional capture by the threatening stimuli (Unpredictable task), the effects of affective valence of the pictures on the voluntary control of attention were explored (Predictable task). Results showed that reaction time (RT) was facilitated to the probe that appeared at the location of threatening stimuli when it occurred in the right visual field (but not in the left visual field), indicating that attention was captured automatically, at least in this visual field. However, when participants were able to predict the probe location, the attentional gains increased similarly for all the conditions (composed of visual field by picture type combinations) relative to those of Unpredictable task, with no indication of deferred deployment of attention to threatening stimuli. The results of this study suggested that the emotional valence, particularly negative valence, affected the automatic control of attention. This effect differed between the two visual fields in which emotional stimuli occurred.
- Attentional capture
- Voluntary controlled attention
ASJC Scopus subject areas