Affective picture processing and motivational relevance: arousal and valence effects on ERPs in an oddball task.Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 Jun; 72(3):299-306.IJ
There are two dominant theories of affective picture processing; one that attention is more deeply engaged by motivationally relevant stimuli (i.e., stimuli that activate both the appetitive and aversive systems), and two that attention is more deeply engaged by aversive stimuli described as the negativity bias. In order to identify the theory that can best account for affective picture processing, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 34 participants during a modified oddball paradigm in which levels of stimulus valence, arousal, and motivational relevance were systematically varied. Results were partially consistent with motivated attention models of emotional perception, as P3b amplitude was enhanced in response to highly arousing and motivationally relevant sexual and unpleasant stimuli compared to respective low arousing and less motivationally relevant stimuli. However P3b amplitudes were significantly larger in response to the highly arousing sexual stimuli compared to all other affective stimuli, which is not consistent with either dominant theory. The current study therefore highlights the need for a revised model of affective picture processing and provides a platform for further research investigating the independent effects of sexual arousal on cognitive processing.