The Cognitive Science of
Attention and Emotion
University of Dundee, Dundee, UK and
University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Emotion and attention are intimately linked. States of emotion influence both the contents of consciousness and performance on tasks requiring selection of stimuli or intensive concentration. In reviewing the relationship between emotion and attention, this chapter has three principal aims. First, we provide a brief overview of the cognitive science of attention and emotion, which focuses on both processing mechanisms and strategies for regulation of processing. We identify issues relating to automaticity and executive control as being of critical importance in theory development. We focus mainly on negative emotions, which have two distinct types of effect: impairment effects associated with reduced quality or efficiency of performance, and bias effects associated with prioritization of processing of stimuli of negative valence. Second, we consider how attentional disturbance and emotion may be interrelated within a comprehensive multi-level model, Wells & Matthews' s (1994b, 1996) Self-Regulatory Executive Function (S-REF) model. Third, we review clinical applications of the model.
Various definitions of attention have been provided (e.g. Posner, 1975), but central to the concept is the prioritization of some aspects of processing, possibly
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