Using a Stroop task, we investigated the effect of task-irrelevant emotional distractors on attentional proactive control and its interaction with trait anxiety. On the basis of recent findings showing opposed neural responses in the dorsal-executive versus the ventral-emotional systems in response to emotional distractors and of the attentional control theory (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007), we hypothesized that negative distractors will result in a reduction of proactive task control in the executive system, especially for high-trait-anxious individuals. Using a computational model of the Stroop task, we derive 2 specific behavioral predictions of reduced proactive task control: increased Stroop interference and reversed Stroop facilitation. Twenty-five high- and 25 low-traitanxious participants completed a Stroop task in which the target stimuli were preceded by brief (neutral vs. aversive) emotional distractors. While no effects of picture valence on proactive control was found in the low-anxious group, the predicted signatures of reduced proactive control were observed in the high-anxiety group. These results indicate that trait anxiety influences the interaction between irrelevant emotional stimuli and proactive control.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.
- Executive control
- Task conflict