Distracting Tracking: Interactions Between Negative Emotion and Attentional Load in Multiple-Object Tracking

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Abstract

Stimuli that attract exogenous attention have been shown to interfere with behavioral performance on various tasks. In the present study, participants performed multiple-object tracking (MOT) in conditions where either neutral or negatively valenced images were flashed at fixation. Results reveal a significant impairment of tracking accuracy in the emotional MOT conditions compared to the neutral conditions specifically at the highest level of task difficulty. These findings suggest that emotional distraction is most detrimental when maximal endogenous attentional engagement is required. This interaction between emotional distraction and attentional load is inconsistent with existing models of emotional distraction.

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