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Concurrent cognitive demands influence allocation of attention resources during fear processing.
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0011-7770
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4116-5501
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Influences of a concurrent cognitive demand on allocation of attentional resources and physiological responses to threatening stimuli was investigated. In two secondary task experiments, pictures of fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant stimuli (Experiment 1), as well as feared and non-feared stimuli (Experiment 2), were used as backgrounds in a discrimination task. The cognitive manipulation was provided by a constraint, induced with a threat of punishment motivating participants to respond quick and accurately. The control condition imposed no such constraint. Results showed a larger allocation of attentional resources for both fear-relevant and feared stimuli. More importantly, it was also shown that resources allocated to threatening stimuli could be manipulated by a concurrent cognitive demand. However, both response accuracy and physiological reactions persisted the manipulation when a feared versus a non-feared animal was shown, indicating that attentional resources can be manipulated by an internal cognitive demand even though a fear reaction occurs.

Keywords [en]
Secondary task, fear, processong resources, heart rate, cognitive control.
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-19009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-19009DiVA, id: diva2:623980
Available from: 2013-05-29 Created: 2013-05-29 Last updated: 2016-12-09Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. FEAR - A process influenced by concurrent processing demands
Open this publication in new window or tab >>FEAR - A process influenced by concurrent processing demands
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Fear is a central aspect in mammalian evolution, prompting escape from and avoidance of threat and dangers. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that we have a well developed system to detect dangers and quickly respond to them. It has been shown that threatening information has an advantage in information processing; it seems to promote a rapid capture of selective attention and puts demand on processing resources. It has been suggested that the elicitation of fear occurs automatically, and that it is independent of and impenetrable to cognition.

The idea with the present research is that fear processing is dependent on all concurrent internal or external processing demands. One visual search study (Study II) and two secondary task studies (Study I & III) have been conducted to investigate if external or internal distraction can interfere with fear processing. In order to provoke fear responses, spider or snake fearful individuals have been exposed to pictures of their feared stimulus. The aim of Study II was to investigate if the selective attention to fear stimuli could be influenced by contextual factors, such as the nature of the distracting stimuli in a visual search. Study I and III aimed to investigate manipulation of resources allocated to fear stimuli. In Study I, task demand was used as the manipulation, and in Study III an internal cognitive directive was used. The results from these studies indicate that fear is susceptible to manipulation by both external and internal means. By changing circumstances in the surrounding or in the individuals’ internal states, responses to threatening stimuli can be altered. This means that processing of threatening stimuli is influenced by other concurrent processing demands, suggesting that a fear response is not occurring as an isolated and impenetrable process. In an evolutionary perspective, a fear system that is easily triggered but has access to cognitive evaluation at all times ought to be far more flexible, thus creating a better chance for survival than a modular and impenetrable fear system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Östersund: Mid Sweden University, 2013. p. 155
Series
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X ; 153
Keywords
Attention, Fear, Performance, Processing resources
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-19011 (URN)978-91-87103-82-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-05-31, F234, Campus Östersund, Hus F, Östersund, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-05-31 Created: 2013-05-29 Last updated: 2013-05-31Bibliographically approved

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Bjärtå, AnnaSundin, Örjan

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CiteExportLink to record
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