Emotional cues differently modulate visual processing of faces and objects.

Elite Mardo, Sivan Schwartz, Galia Avidan, Bat Sheva Hadad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ample evidence suggests that emotion affects visual perception. Here we asked how arousal, induced by emotional stimuli and modulated by anxiety trait, biases competition among stimuli to favor the perceptually conspicuous ones. We first demonstrated that negatively arousing pictures impaired subsequent discrimination of cars, but not the discrimination of faces, among individuals with high-trait anxiety. To directly demonstrate the role of attention in the emotional modulations of visual perception, we used a modified exogenous cuing task, showing that for anxious individuals, a negatively arousing cue elicited cost when processing cars but not faces. These results indicate that arousal biases attention toward perceptually salient stimuli, allowing those with high-trait anxiety to disengage attention from an arousing stimulus more easily when it is followed by a face. The results suggest that attention modulates the effects of emotion on perception, leading to higher resilience of high-priority stimuli to arousal-biased competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-583
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • faces, arousal-biased competition, attention, arousal, anxiety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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