Abstract

The current study investigated the association between neural engagement with task-irrelevant images and subsequent interference with target processing using the Emotional Interrupt paradigm [Mitchell, D., Richell, R., Leonard, A., & Blair, R. Emotion at the expense of cognition: Psychopathic individuals outperform controls on an operant response task. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 559, 2006]. Consistent with previous studies, PCA-derived factors corresponding to the early posterior negativity, P300, and late positive potential (LPP) were enhanced for emotional (i.e., both unpleasant and pleasant) compared with neutral distracters, and the P300 elicited by targets was smaller following emotional compared with neutral pictures. In addition, RTs were increased to targets that followed emotional pictures. Within-subject analyses demonstrated that slow trials were characterized by a smaller P300 and were preceded by pictures with a larger LPP. Additionally, between-subject analyses indicate that individuals with a larger LPP also demonstrated slower RTs to targets and reduced target-elicited P300s. All results were specific to the LPP and were not observed for either the early posterior negativity or the P300 elicited by task-irrelevant pictures. By relating the LPP to subsequent behavioral and ERP interference in both within- and between-subject analyses, the current study provides direct support for the notion that LPP indexes attentional engagement with visual stimuli that is uniquely associated with subsequent interference in terms of both RT slowing and P300 reduction to targets.

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