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Visual features and perceptual context modulate attention towards evolutionarily relevant threatening stimuli: Electrophysiological evidence
Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Finland.
Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Finland.
University of Skövde, School of Bioscience. University of Skövde, The Systems Biology Research Centre. Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Finland. (Consciousness and Cognitive Neuroscience)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5133-8664
University of Skövde, School of Bioscience. University of Skövde, The Systems Biology Research Centre. Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Finland. (Consciousness and Cognitive Neurosciece)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2771-1588
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2018 (English)In: Emotion, ISSN 1528-3542, E-ISSN 1931-1516, article id 10.1037/emo0000434Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

The snake detection hypothesis claims that predatory pressure from snakes has shaped the primate visual system, but we still know very little about how the brain processes evolutionarily important visual cues, and which factors are crucial for quick detection of snakes. We investigated how visual features modulate the electrophysiological markers of early attentional processes. In Experiment 1, we compared snake, rope, gun, and bird images to isolate the effects due to curvilinearity of the stimuli. The results showed that both snake and rope images elicited enhanced P1 and N1 event-related potential components as well as early posterior negativity (EPN). In Experiment 2, we studied whether nonthreatening curvilinear images (i.e., ropes) still elicit the enhanced electrophysiological responses when snake images are not presented as stimuli, and therefore the context does not provoke top-down attention to curvilinear shapes. Rope images still evoked an enhanced EPN, suggesting that curvilinear shapes are preferably captured by attentional processes. However, this effect was smaller than in Experiment 1, in which snake images were present. Thus, our results hint to the possibility that the perceptual context may interact with processing of shape information, drawing attention to curvilinear shapes when the presence of snakes is expectable. Furthermore, we observed that spatial frequency of the visual stimuli modulated especially the early electrophysiological responses, and decreased the differences between stimulus categories in EPN without completely eliminating them. The findings suggest that low-level and high-level mechanisms interact to give an attentional priority to potentially threatening stimuli.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Psychological Association (APA), 2018. article id 10.1037/emo0000434
Keywords [en]
Evolution psychology, ERP
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Consciousness and Cognitive Neuroscience
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:his:diva-15100DOI: 10.1037/emo0000434PubMedID: 29578746OAI: oai:DiVA.org:his-15100DiVA, id: diva2:1201787
Available from: 2018-04-26 Created: 2018-04-26 Last updated: 2018-11-12

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Valli, KatjaRevonsuo, Antti

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