A Search for an Affective Index of Inhibition in the Narrowing of Attention Reveals Interactive Effects of Congruence and Exposure on Stimulus Liking

Narkar, Niyatee
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University of Guelph

Narrowing our focus of attention is critical to achieve goals and avoid threats. We contrast between two competing hypotheses to test if inhibition underlies this process: amplification-only versus amplification-plus-inhibition hypothesis. Because inhibition is associated with negative evaluations, we combined a global/local perception task with an affective evaluation task across three experiments (total N = 364) to assess whether stimulus ratings were more negative for trials requiring narrowed attention (local) than trials with broadened attention (global). With no significant effects of attention on stimulus liking (Exp. 1, 2 & 3), our results fail to support either hypothesis. However, there was a robust effect of perceptual congruency—congruent items received more positive ratings than incongruent items and experienced a significant decline from the first (baseline) to the second encounter (post-task). This effect cannot be attributed to stimulus exposure frequency (Exp. 3) and is independent of the global/local attention task (Exp. 4).

spatial attention, attentional inhibition, affect, affective devaluation, perceptual congruency, mere exposure