Cognition and Emotion 31 (8):1525-1542 (2017)

Abstract
It is hypothesised that threatening stimuli are detected better due to their salience or physical properties. However, these stimuli are typically embedded in a rich context, motivating the question whether threat detection is facilitated via learning of contexts in which threat stimuli appear. To address this question, we presented threatening face targets in new or old spatial configurations consisting of schematic faces and found that detection of threatening targets was faster in old configurations. This indicates that individuals are able to learn regularities within visual contexts and use this contextual information to guide detection of threatening targets. Next, we presented threatening and non-threatening face targets embedded in new or old spatial configurations. Detection of threatening targets was facilitated in old configurations, and this effect was reversed for non-threatening targets. Present findings show that detection of threatening targets is driven not only by stimulus properties as theorised traditionally but also by learning of contexts in which threatening stimuli appear. Further, results show that context learning for threatening targets obstructs context learning for non-threatening targets. Overall, in addition to typically emphasised bottom-up factors, our findings highlight the importance of top-down factors such as context and learning in detection of salient, threatening stimuli.
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DOI 10.1080/02699931.2016.1237349
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References found in this work BETA

How Brains Beware: Neural Mechanisms of Emotional Attention.Patrik Vuilleumier - 2005 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 9 (12):585-594.
Emotion Drives Attention: Detecting the Snake in the Grass.Arne Öhman, Anders Flykt & Francisco Esteves - 2001 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 130 (3):466.
Universals in Color Naming and Memory.Eleanor R. Heider - 1972 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 93 (1):10.
Expectation in Visual Cognition.Christopher Summerfield & Tobias Egner - 2009 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13 (9):403-409.

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