Individual Differences in Emotional and Motivational Salience for Complex Scenes
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Attention to elements in complex scenes is determined, in part, by the physical characteristics of stimuli. However, the ability of objects to capture visual attention is also subject to emotional and motivational influences. The present study investigates how positive mood and individual differences influence attention to complex, ecologically- valid scenes containing multiple motivational stimuli. Participants (N=41) viewed 15 scenes containing various motivationally relevant stimuli (food, alcohol, and tobacco) under neutral and happy moods while having their eye movements recorded with an eye- tracker. While past research has demonstrated that positive moods broaden attention and affective state can change the order in which participants view stimuli, the results of the current study found that mood did not increase fixation count and gaze order varied significantly regardless of mood. Further, though positive moods tend to increase the salience of rewarding stimuli (e.g., alcohol and food), creating differences in gaze behaviors, attention to food did not vary as a function of mood and alcohol received less attention after mood manipulation amongst participants that drink alcohol. Additionally, the incentive value of appetitive stimuli was not affected by the presence of other stimuli; alcohol and food attracted more fixations faster and for longer durations than stimuli without incentive salience. Current results suggest that motivationally salient content, and not mood, may be more influential when viewing complex scenes.