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Autonomic arousal and attentional orienting to visual threat are predicted by awareness

Autonomic arousal and attentional orienting to visual threat are predicted by awareness
Autonomic arousal and attentional orienting to visual threat are predicted by awareness
The rapid detection and evaluation of threat is of fundamental importance for survival. Theories suggest that this evolutionary pressure has driven functional adaptations in a specialized visual pathway that evaluates threat independently of conscious awareness. This is supported by evidence that threat-relevant stimuli rendered invisible by backward masking can induce physiological fear responses and modulate spatial attention. The validity of these findings has since been questioned by research using stringent, objective measures of awareness. Here, we use a modified continuous flash suppression paradigm to ask whether threatening images induce adaptive changes in autonomic arousal, attention, or perception when presented outside of awareness. In trials where stimuli broke suppression to become visible, threatening stimuli induced a significantly larger skin conductance response than nonthreatening stimuli and attracted spatial attention over scrambled images. However, these effects were eliminated in trials where observers were unaware of the stimuli. In addition, concurrent behavioral data provided no evidence that threatening images gained prioritized access to awareness. Taken together, our data suggest that the evaluation and spatial detection of visual threat are predicted by awareness.
0096-1523
798-806
Hedger, N.
26a456a8-1f18-4c41-a29e-1ddd2218ea9b
Adams, W.J.
25685aaa-fc54-4d25-8d65-f35f4c5ab688
Garner, M.
3221c5b3-b951-4fec-b456-ec449e4ce072
Hedger, N.
26a456a8-1f18-4c41-a29e-1ddd2218ea9b
Adams, W.J.
25685aaa-fc54-4d25-8d65-f35f4c5ab688
Garner, M.
3221c5b3-b951-4fec-b456-ec449e4ce072

Hedger, N., Adams, W.J. and Garner, M. (2015) Autonomic arousal and attentional orienting to visual threat are predicted by awareness Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 41, (3), pp. 798-806. (doi:10.1037/xhp0000051). (PMID:25867508).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The rapid detection and evaluation of threat is of fundamental importance for survival. Theories suggest that this evolutionary pressure has driven functional adaptations in a specialized visual pathway that evaluates threat independently of conscious awareness. This is supported by evidence that threat-relevant stimuli rendered invisible by backward masking can induce physiological fear responses and modulate spatial attention. The validity of these findings has since been questioned by research using stringent, objective measures of awareness. Here, we use a modified continuous flash suppression paradigm to ask whether threatening images induce adaptive changes in autonomic arousal, attention, or perception when presented outside of awareness. In trials where stimuli broke suppression to become visible, threatening stimuli induced a significantly larger skin conductance response than nonthreatening stimuli and attracted spatial attention over scrambled images. However, these effects were eliminated in trials where observers were unaware of the stimuli. In addition, concurrent behavioral data provided no evidence that threatening images gained prioritized access to awareness. Taken together, our data suggest that the evaluation and spatial detection of visual threat are predicted by awareness.

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Published date: 2015

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Local EPrints ID: 375239
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/375239
ISSN: 0096-1523
PURE UUID: e57a45ef-df3a-434e-a665-626daa04a350
ORCID for W.J. Adams: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5832-1056

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Date deposited: 18 Mar 2015 15:05
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 21:18

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Contributors

Author: N. Hedger
Author: W.J. Adams ORCID iD
Author: M. Garner

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