The dynamic allocation of attention to emotion: simultaneous and independent evidence from the late positive potential and steady state visual evoked potentials. Academic Article uri icon


  • Emotional stimuli capture and hold attention without explicit instruction. The late positive potential (LPP) component of the event related potential can be used to track motivated attention toward emotional stimuli, and is larger for emotional compared to neutral pictures. In the frequency domain, the steady state visual evoked potential (ssVEP) has also been used to track attention to stimuli flickering at a particular frequency. Like the LPP, the ssVEP is also larger for emotional compared to neutral pictures. Prior work suggests that both the LPP and ssVEP are sensitive to "top-down" manipulations of attention, however the LPP and ssVEP have not previously been examined using the same attentional manipulation in the same participants. In the present study, LPP and ssVEP amplitudes were simultaneously elicited by unpleasant and neutral pictures. Partway through picture presentation, participants' attention was directed toward an arousing or non-arousing region of unpleasant pictures. In line with prior work, the LPP was reduced when attention was directed toward non-arousing compared to arousing regions of unpleasant pictures; similar results were observed for the ssVEP. Thus, both electrocortical measures index affective salience and are sensitive to directed (here: spatial) attention. Variation in the LPP and ssVEP was unrelated, suggesting that these measures are not redundant with each other and may capture different neurophysiological aspects of affective stimulus processing and attention.

published proceedings

  • Biol Psychol

author list (cited authors)

  • Hajcak, G., MacNamara, A., Foti, D., Ferri, J., & Keil, A.

citation count

  • 102

complete list of authors

  • Hajcak, Greg||MacNamara, Annmarie||Foti, Dan||Ferri, Jamie||Keil, Andreas

publication date

  • March 2013