Task relevance modulates processing of distracting emotional stimuli

Limor Lichtenstein-Vidne, Avishai Henik, Ziad Safadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Numerous studies have claimed that emotional stimuli are able to capture attention automatically when presented outside the main focus of attention. In the current study this claim was tested by using task-relevant and task-irrelevant emotional stimuli. Specifically, in two experiments the effect of emotional stimuli presented in the periphery of attention was tested by using a flanker task. Results showed that emotional stimuli did not capture attention in an unconditional manner. Emotional distracting stimuli created interference only when they were relevant to the task. The findings suggest that "task relevance" is determined by (a) task requirements, and/or (b) target characteristics. The current results have implications for the concept of cognitive load and automaticity of processing emotional stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-52
Number of pages11
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Emotional stimuli
  • Selective attention
  • Task relevance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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