[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Empirical studies have frequently linked negative attentional biases with attentional dysfunction and negative moods; however, far less research has focused on how attentional deployment can be an adaptive strategy that regulates emotional experience. The authors argue that attention may be an invaluable tool for promoting emotion regulation. Accordingly, they present evidence that selective attention to positive information reflects emotion regulation and that regulating attention is a critical component of the emotion regulatory process. Furthermore, attentional regulation can be successfully trained through repeated practice. The authors ultimately propose a model of attention training methodologies integrating attention-dependent emotion regulation strategies with attention networks. Although additional interdisciplinary research is needed to bolster these nascent findings, meditative practices appear to be among the most effective training methodologies in enhancing emotional well-being. Further exploration of the positive and therapeutic qualities of attention warrants the empirical attention of social and personality psychologists.
Personality and Social Psychology Review 02/2011; 15(1):75-102. · 6.07 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Older adults display positive preferences in their gaze, consistent with their prioritization of emotion regulation goals. While some research has argued that substantial amounts of cognitive effort are necessary for these information-processing preferences to occur, other work suggests that these attentional patterns unfold with minimal cognitive exertion. The current study used an implicit regulatory context (i.e., viewing facial stimuli of varying emotions) to assess how much cognitive effort was required for positive attentional preferences to occur. Effortful cognitive processing was assessed with a direct measure of change in pupil dilation. Results indicated that minimal cognitive effort was expended when older adults engaged in positive gaze preferences. This finding suggests that gaze acts as a rather effortless and economical regulatory tool for individuals to shape their affective experience.
Aging Neuropsychology and Cognition 11/2009; 17(3):296-311. · 1.07 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Socioemotional selectivity theory postulates that with age, people are motivated to derive emotional meaning from life, leading them to pay more attention to positive relative to negative/neutral stimuli. The authors argue that cultures that differ in what they consider to be emotionally meaningful may show this preference to different extents. Using eye-tracking techniques, the authors compared visual attention toward emotional (happy, fearful, sad, and angry) and neutral facial expressions among 46 younger and 57 older Hong Kong Chinese. In contrast to prior Western findings, older but not younger Chinese looked away from happy facial expressions, suggesting that they do not show attentional preferences toward positive stimuli.
Psychology and Aging 07/2008; 23(2):440-6. · 2.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Individuals with a positive visual attention bias may use their gaze to regulate their emotions while under stress. The current study experimentally trained differential biases in participants' (N = 55) attention toward positive or neutral information. In each training trial, one positive and one neutral word were presented and then a visual target appeared consistently in the location of the positive or neutral words. Participants were instructed to make a simple perceptual discrimination response to the target. Immediately before and after attentional training, participants were exposed to a stress task consisting of viewing a series of extremely negative images while having their eyes tracked. Visual fixation time to negative images, assessed with an eye tracker, served as an indicator of using gaze to successfully regulate emotion. Those participants experimentally trained to selectively attend to affectively positive information looked significantly less at the negative images in the visual stress task following the attentional training, thus demonstrating a learned aversion to negative stimuli. Participants trained toward neutral information did not show this biased gaze pattern.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Research suggests a positivity effect in older adults' memory for emotional material, but the evidence from the attentional domain is mixed. The present study combined 2 methodologies for studying preferences in visual attention, eye tracking, and dot-probe, as younger and older adults viewed synthetic emotional faces. Eye tracking most consistently revealed a positivity effect in older adults' attention, so that older adults showed preferential looking toward happy faces and away from sad faces. Dot-probe results were less robust, but in the same direction. Methodological and theoretical implications for the study of socioemotional aging are discussed.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent studies have suggested that older individuals selectively forget negative information. However, findings on a positivity effect in the attention of older adults have been more mixed. In the current study, eye tracking was used to record visual fixation in nearly real-time to investigate whether older individuals show a positivity effect in their visual attention to emotional information. Young and old individuals (N = 64) viewed pairs of synthetic faces that included the same face in a nonemotional expression and in 1 of 4 emotional expressions (happiness, sadness, anger, or fear). Gaze patterns were recorded as individuals viewed the face pairs. Older adults showed an attentional preference toward happy faces and away from angry ones; the only preference shown by young adults was toward afraid faces. The age groups were not different in overall cognitive functioning, suggesting that these attentional differences are specific and motivated rather than due to general cognitive change with age.
Psychology and Aging 04/2006; 21(1):40-8. · 2.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In an attempt to investigate the impact of positive emotions on visual attention within the context of Fredrickson's (1998) broaden-and-build model, eye tracking was used in two studies to measure visual attentional preferences of college students (n=58, n=26) to emotional pictures. Half of each sample experienced induced positive mood immediately before viewing slides of three similarly-valenced images, in varying central-peripheral arrays. Attentional breadth was determined by measuring the percentage viewing time to peripheral images as well as by the number of visual saccades participants made per slide. Consistent with Fredrickson's theory, the first study showed that individuals induced into positive mood fixated more on peripheral stimuli than did control participants; however, this only held true for highly-valenced positive stimuli. Participants under induced positive mood also made more frequent saccades for slides of neutral and positive valence. A second study showed that these effects were not simply due to differences in emotional arousal between stimuli. Selective attentional broadening to positive stimuli may act both to facilitate later building of resources as well as to maintain current positive affective states.
Motivation and Emotion 03/2006; 30(1):87-99. · 1.23 Impact Factor