The visual system has been found to prioritise emotional stimuli so robustly that their presence can temporarily “blind” people to non-emotional targets in their direct line of vision. This has ostensible implications for the real world: medics must not be blinded to important information despite the trauma they confront, and drivers must not be blinded when passing emotionally engaging billboards. One possibility is that the familiarity of goal-relevant information can protect people’s perception of it despite emotional distraction (e.g. drivers’ perception might be less impaired by graphic ads when on a familiar road). In two experiments, we tested whether familiarity renders targets more perceptible following the presentation of an emotional distractor in two temporal attention tasks, emotion-induced blindness (Experiment 1) and the attentional blink (Experiment 2). Targets were pictures of familiar or unfamiliar locations. Although, overall, familiar targets were seen better than unfamiliar targets in both studies, stimulus familiarity did not reduce the relative perceptual impairments caused by emotional distractors.
- attentional blink
- emotion-induced blindness