Attentional inhibition determines emotional responses to unfamiliar faces

Mark J. Fenske, Klaus Kessler, Jane E. Raymond, Steven P. Tipper

Research output: Contribution to journalConference abstractpeer-review


Complex abstract images that are ignored in a simple localization task are subsequently judged more negatively in an emotional evaluation task than previously unseen or attended images, suggesting that attentional inhibition may have affective consequences (Raymond, Fenske, & Tavassoli, in press). We examined the generality of this finding by asking whether inhibitory processes might also influence the generation of emotional responses to unfamiliar faces. To do this, we incorporated an emotional evaluation task within a paradigm that has been used to demonstrate long-term inhibition-of-return (IOR) of attention (Tipper, Grison, & Kessler, in press). On each 2-task trial, observers were first shown a unique pair of unfamiliar faces while performing a speeded go/no-go task. In this task, observers were required to withhold a response if there was an abrupt onset of an exogenous cue (no-go trials), and to make a response if a different stimulus was presented (go ‘catch’ trials). Following the completion of an intervening task, observers where asked to make an affective evaluation about the faces they had previously seen in the go/no-go task (e.g., Which of these people looks more friendly?). We found that observers were less likely to make positive affective responses to faces that attention had been exogenously drawn to in no-go trials than to faces to which attention had never been exogenously allocated. These results converge with our previous finding to suggest that inhibition may be associated with an episode encoded into memory, and that later retrieval acts to reinstate inhibitory processing. Importantly, our results suggest that this inhibitory processing involves affective devaluation, which may serve to encourage examination of new information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-325
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2003


  • emotional evaluation
  • inhibition-of-return
  • emotional response
  • abstract images


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