Incongruency effects in affective processing: Automatic motivational counter-regulation or mismatch-induced salience?

Cognition and Emotion 25 (3):413-425 (2011)
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Abstract

Attention is automatically allocated to stimuli that are opposite in valence to the current motivational focus (Rothermund, 2003; Rothermund, Voss, & Wentura, 2008). We tested whether this incongruency effect is due to affective–motivational counter-regulation or to an increased salience of stimuli that mismatch with cognitively activated information. Affective processing biases were assessed with a search task in which participants had to detect the spatial position at which a positive or negative stimulus was presented. In the motivational condition, positive or negative affective–motivational states were induced by performance feedback after each trial. In the cognitive activation condition, participants memorised the word “good” or “bad” during the search task. The affective incongruency effect was replicated in the motivational condition, whereas an affective congruency effect obtained in the cognitive activation condition. These findings support an explanation of affective incongruency effects in terms of automatic counter-regulation that is motivational in nature.

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