Task relevance regulates the interaction between reward expectation and emotion.Exp Brain Res. 2014 Jun; 232(6):1783-91.EB
In the present study, we investigated the impact of reward expectation on the processing of emotional facial expression using a cue-target paradigm. A cue indicating the reward condition of each trial (incentive vs. non-incentive) was followed by the presentation of a picture of an emotional face, the target. Participants were asked to discriminate the emotional expression of the target face in Experiment 1, to discriminate the gender of the target face in Experiment 2, and to judge a number superimposed on the center of the target face as even or odd in Experiment 3, rendering the emotional expression of the target face as task relevant in Experiment 1 but task irrelevant in Experiments 2 and 3. Faster reaction times (RTs) were observed in the monetary incentive condition than in the non-incentive condition, demonstrating the effect of reward on facilitating task concentration. Moreover, the reward effect (i.e., RTs in non-incentive conditions versus incentive conditions) was larger for emotional faces than for neutral faces when emotional expression was task relevant but not when it was task irrelevant. The findings suggest that top-down incentive motivation biased attentional processing toward task-relevant stimuli, and that task relevance played an important role in regulating the influence of reward expectation on the processing of emotional stimuli.