Processing of unattended, simple negative pictures resists perceptual load.Neuroreport. 2011 May 11; 22(7):348-52.N
As researchers debate whether emotional pictures can be processed irrespective of spatial attention and perceptual load, negative and neutral pictures of simple figure-ground composition were shown at fixation and were surrounded by one, two, or three letters. When participants performed a picture discrimination task, there was evidence for motivated attention; that is, an early posterior negativity (EPN) and late positive potential (LPP) to negative versus neutral pictures. When participants performed a letter discrimination task, the EPN was unaffected whereas the LPP was reduced. Although performance decreased substantially with the number of letters (one to three), the LPP did not decrease further. Therefore, attention to simple, negative pictures at fixation seems to resist manipulations of perceptual load.