Effects of social and affective content on exogenous attention as revealed by event-related potentials
The social content of affective stimuli has been proposed as having an influence on cognitive processing and behaviour. This research was aimed, therefore, at studying whether automatic exogenous attention demanded by affective pictures was related to their social value. We hypothesised that affective social pictures would capture attention to a greater extent than non-social affective stimuli. For this purpose, we recorded event-related potentials in a sample of 24 participants engaged in a digit categorisation task. Distracters were affective pictures varying in social content, in addition to affective valence and arousal, which appeared in the background during the task. Our data revealed that pictures depicting high social content captured greater automatic attention than other pictures, as reflected by the greater amplitude and shorter latency of anterior P2, and anterior and posterior N2 components of the ERPs.