Emotion and Attention: When the Heart’s Eye Guides the Mind’s Eye

Volume 18
Issue 2
Sowon Hahn
The dichotomy between “cold” cognition and “hot” emotion is deeply rooted in our understanding of the human mind. Traditional research in cognitive science often ignores the role of emotion when pursuing an information processing model. Recently, however, research has supported the critical role of emotion in many cognitive processes, including attention, memory, and decision-making. The interaction between attention and emotion is especially important in the adaptive sense because the ability to quickly respond to meaningful stimuli is essential for survival. The current review uses the distinction between top-down (goal-directed) and bottom-up (stimulus-driven) attention to investigate the relationship between emotion and attention. In particular, this review focuses on the relationship among visual selective attention and affective states, individual differences of emotional processing, and neural bases for the interaction between emotion and attention. Converging evidence shows that emotion can prioritize stimuli in the environment and that attention plays a role in controlling emotional processing.

Keywords: top-down and bottom-up attention, emotion, visual selective attention, visual search