Monetary and non-monetary rewards reduce attentional capture by emotional distractors
journal contributionposted on 2020-08-27, 07:13 authored by AT Walsh, David Podhortzer CarmelDavid Podhortzer Carmel, David HarperDavid Harper, P Bolitho, Georgina GrimshawGeorgina Grimshaw
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Irrelevant emotional stimuli often capture attention, disrupting ongoing cognitive processes. In two experiments, we examined whether availability of rewards (monetary and non-monetary) can prevent this attentional capture. Participants completed a central letter identification task while attempting to ignore negative, positive, and neutral distractor images that appeared above or below the targets on 25% of trials. Distraction was indexed by slowing on distractor-present trials. Half the participants completed the task with no performance-contingent reward, while the other half earned points for fast and accurate performance. In Experiment 1, points translated into monetary reward, but in Experiment 2, points had no monetary value. In both experiments, reward reduced capture by emotional distractors, showing that even non-monetary reward can aid attentional control. These findings suggest that motivation encourages use of effective cognitive control mechanisms that effectively prevent attentional capture, even when distractors are emotional.