Negative arousal reduces sensitivity for processing context information

Thomas Maran1, Pierre Sachse2, Marco Furtner2
1Department of Psychology, and Department of Educational Sciences and Research, University of Innsbruck and Alps Adria University of Klagenfurt, Austria
2Department of Psychology, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Cite this article:  Maran, T., Sachse, P., & Furtner, M. (2018). Negative arousal reduces sensitivity for processing context information. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 46(6), 985-994.

Volume 46 Issue 6 | e6878 | Published: June 2018 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.6878

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Increases in arousal modulate information processing, promoting and prompting a switch from a contextual cognitive system to a more rigid habit system underlying ongoing cognition. We built on previous research findings regarding effects of emotion on context processing, examining whether or not high arousal states of different valence affect context processing. We measured context processing using the AX-continuous performance task paradigm. To manipulate emotional arousal, 60 participants were exposed to short clips from existing feature films showing either a social interaction (control condition), a violent encounter (negative arousal condition), or an episode of sexual intercourse (positive arousal condition). Analyses of signal detection measures showed that, compared to the control and positive-arousal groups, participants in the negative-arousal group displayed selective impairment of context processing. Results indicated that alterations in context processing by increased arousal are valence specific.

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