Emotional influences on perception and working memory

Juyoen Hur, Alexandru D. Iordan, Florin Dolcos, Howard Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although there has been steady progress elucidating the influence of emotion on cognition, it remains unclear precisely when and why emotion impairs or facilitates cognition. The present study investigated the mechanisms involved in the influence of emotion on perception and working memory (WM), using modified 0-back and 2-back tasks, respectively. First, results showed that attentional focus modulated the impact of emotion on perception. Specifically, emotion facilitated perceptual task performance when it was relevant to the task, but it impaired performance when it was irrelevant to the task. The differential behavioural effect of emotion on perception as a function of attentional focus diminished under high WM load. Second, attentional focus did not directly modulate the impact of emotion on WM, but rather its influence depended on the dynamic relationship between internal representations. Specifically, WM performance was worse when the material already being held online and the new input were of matching emotions (e.g. both were negative), compared to when they were not. We propose that the competition between “bottom-up” and “top-down” processing for limited cognitive resources explains the nature of the influence of emotion on both perception and WM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1294-1302
Number of pages9
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 18 2017


  • Emotion
  • attentional focus
  • biased competition model
  • cognition
  • congruence interference effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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