Fuzzy Picture Processing: Effects of Size Reduction and Blurring on Emotional Processing

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Previous studies have suggested that picture size reduction affects emotional reactions, possibly because scenes subtending a small visual angle are perceived as being more distant and less relevant compared to larger stimuli. However, pictures that subtend a small visual angle also contain few fine-grained details, which may determine less vivid representations and responses compared to larger and more detailed images. Critically, the present study compared two different types of manipulations, namely size reduction and low-pass spatial filtering, which determined similar detail loss but affected visual angles differently. Affective modulation was assessed using an evaluative task and a behavioral interference task. Results showed that the availability of fine-grained details, independently of visual angle, modulated emotional evaluation. Moreover, interference in an unrelated task was unaffected by either size reduction or low-pass spatial filtering. These findings suggest that high spatial frequencies affect subjective emotional response whereas attentional capture by affective stimuli seems to rely on information that is sufficient to allow a categorization of picture content.

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