Visual attention can be voluntarily oriented to detect target stimuli in order to facilitate goal-directed behaviors. Other visual stimuli capture attention because of motivational significance. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between directed and motivated attention using event-related potentials. Affectively engaging pictures were presented either as target stimuli or as nontargets in a categorization task. Results indicated that both task relevance and emotional significance modulated the late positive potential (LPP) over centro-parietal sensors. Effects of directed and motivated attention on the LPP were additive, with the largest centro-parietal positivity found for emotional pictures that were targets of directed attention, and the least for neutral pictures that were nontargets. Taken together, the data provide new information regarding the relationship between motivated and directed attention, and suggest that the LPP reflects the operation of attentional neural circuits that are utilized by both top-down and bottom-up processes.

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