Friday, March 12, 2010

The Blues Broaden, but the Nasty Narrows

A great article title from Gable and Harmon-Jones, and yet another study involving students in an introductory psychology course: observations that highly motivated positive and negative emotions go with narrowing of our attentional focus, but either positive or negative low-motivation feelings broaden attention. Their slightly edited abstract:
Positive and negative affects high in motivational intensity cause a narrowing of attentional focus. In contrast, positive affects low in motivational intensity cause a broadening of attentional focus. The attentional consequences of negative affects low in motivational intensity have not been experimentally investigated. A first experiment (using color photographs, selected from the International Affective Picture System) compared the attentional consequences of negative affect low in motivational intensity (sadness) relative to a neutral affective state. Results indicated that low-motivation negative affect caused attentional broadening. A second experiment found that disgust, a high-motivation negative affect not previously investigated in attentional studies, narrowed attentional focus. These experiments support the conceptual model linking high-motivation affective states to narrowed attention and low-motivation affective states to broadened attention.

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