Happy heart, smiling eyes: A systematic review of positive mood effects on broadening of visuospatial attention

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HighlightsComprehensive overview of studies on attentional changes triggered by positive mood.Positive mood lessens the selectivity of attention in a context-specific way.We posit that positive mood changes the balance between internally and externally directed attention.Cognitive control processes are suggested to play a crucial role in these mood-attention modulations.Anterior and posterior cingulate cortex may be involved in the underlying neurobiological mechanisms.Positive mood contributes to mental and physical wellbeing. The broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 2001) proposed that the beneficial effects of positive mood on life quality result from attentional broadening. In this article, we systematically review (following PRISMA guidelines; Moher et al., 2009), a host of studies investigating the nature and extent of attentional changes triggered by the experience of positive mood, with a focus on vision. While several studies reported a broadening of attention, others found that positive mood led to a more diffuse information processing style. Positive mood appears to lessen attention selectivity in a way that is context-specific and bound to limitations. We propose a new framework in which we postulate that positive mood impacts the balance between internally and externally directed attention, through modulations of cognitive control processes, instead of broadening attention per se. This novel model is able to accommodate discrepant findings, seeks to translate the phenomenon of the so-called broadening of attention with positive mood into functional terms, and provides plausible neurobiological mechanisms underlying this effect, suggesting a crucial role of the anterior and posterior cingulate cortex in this interaction.

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