The effects of acute stress and perceptual load on distractor interference.Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012; 65(4):617-23.QJ
Selective attention can be improved under conditions in which a high perceptual load is assumed to exhaust cognitive resources, leaving scarce resources for distractor processing. The present study examined whether perceptual load and acute stress share common attentional resources by manipulating perceptual and stress loads. Participants identified a target within an array of nontargets that were flanked by compatible or incompatible distractors. Attentional selectivity was measured by longer reaction times in response to the incompatible than to the compatible distractors. Participants in the stress group participated in a speech test that increased anxiety and threatened self-esteem. The effect of perceptual load interacted with the stress manipulation in that participants in the control group demonstrated an interference effect under the low perceptual load condition, whereas such interference disappeared under the high perceptual load condition. Importantly, the stress group showed virtually no interference under the low perceptual load condition, whereas substantial interference occurred under the high perceptual load condition. These results suggest that perceptual and stress related demands consume the same attentional resources.