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The beneficial effect of valid compared to invalid cues on attention performance is a basic attentional mechanism, but the impact of emotional content on cue validity is poorly understood. We tested whether the effect of cue validity on attention performance differed when cues were angry, happy, or neutral faces. Moreover, we used scalp-recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) reflecting the capture of early visual attention (P1, N170) to test whether effects were strengthened when neurocognitive responses to angry or happy cues were enhanced (larger P1 and N170 amplitudes). Twenty-five participants completed a modified flanker task using emotional face cues to measure the effects of emotion on conflict interference. Attention performance was enhanced following valid versus invalid cues, but effects did not differ by emotion cue type. However, for participants showing relatively larger N170 amplitudes to angry face cues, attention performance was specifically disrupted on those trials. Conversely, participants with relatively larger N170 amplitudes to happy face cues showed facilitated performance across all valid trials. These findings suggest that individual neurocognitive sensitivities to emotion predict the impact of emotional content on the basic attentional phenomenon of cue validity.


This article was originally published in PLOS one, available at 10.1371/journal.pone.0179714.

This work is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).

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