Links between attention and emotion were investigated by obtaining electrophysiological measures of attentional selectivity together with behavioral measures of affective evaluation. Participants were asked to rate faces that had just been presented as targets or distractors in a visual search task. Distractors were rated as less trustworthy than targets. To study the association between the efficiency of selective attention during visual search and subsequent emotional responses, the N2pc component was quantified as a function of evaluative judgments. Evaluation of distractor faces (but not target faces) covaried with selective attention. On trials where distractors were later judged negatively, the N2pc emerged earlier, demonstrating that attention was strongly biased toward target events, and distractors were effectively inhibited. When previous distractors were judged positively, the N2pc was delayed, indicating unfocused attention to the target and less distractor suppression. Variations in attentional selectivity across trials can predict subsequent emotional responses, strongly suggesting that attention is closely associated with subsequent affective evaluation.

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