The effect of emotional primes on attentional focus in high versus low depression

Sapir Miron*, Hadar Naftalovich, Eyal Kalanthroff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The effect of negative emotional stimuli on attentional focus is unclear. While a number of studies suggest that negative emotional stimuli improve attention, other studies show the opposite effect—namely, that negative emotional stimuli can impair attention and, specifically, attentional focus. It has been suggested that the detrimental effect of negative stimuli on attention is caused by attentional capture and difficulties in disengaging from the stimuli, an effect that is known to be stronger in depressed individuals. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the effect of negative primes on attentional focus as a function of levels of depression. Sixty-seven participants completed the attentional focus task, with either a neutral or a negative emotional prime preceding each trial. Results showed that attentional focus is improved in negative conditions, but that this effect is contingent upon levels of depression: While there is almost no effect of emotion on individuals with low levels of depression, there is a robust effect on individuals with high levels of depression. These results shed light on the process through which individuals with high levels of depression excessively focus on negative information, while simultaneously dismissing neutral information—a crucial part of the vicious cycle of negative mood and depression. Potential clinical implications are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)377-382
Number of pages6
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Attentional focus
  • Depression
  • Emotion
  • Illusory conjunctions


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