Can templates-for-rejection suppress real-world affective imagery in visual search?

Chris Brown, Nazanin Derakshan

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Previous evidence has suggested that feature-based templates-for-rejection can be maintained in working memory to suppress matching features in the environment. Currently, this effect has only been demonstrated using abstract neutral shapes, meaning that it is unclear whether this generalises to real-world images, including aversive stimuli. In the current investigation, participants searched amongst an array of real-world objects for a target, after being pre-cued with either a Distractor template, Target template, or a No template baseline. In Experiment 1, where both Distractor and Target template cues were presented randomly on a trial-by-trial basis, there was moderate evidence of increased capture by aversive distractors after the Distractor template cue. In Experiment 2a, however, when Distractor templates were the only available cue and more time was given to encode the cue features, there was moderate evidence of effective distractor inhibition for real-world aversive and neutral stimuli. In Experiment 2b, when the task required a slower more effortful comparison of target features to stereotypical object representations, there was weaker evidence of inhibition, though there was still modest evidence suggesting effective inhibition of aversive distractors. A Bayesian meta-analysis revealed that across Experiment 2, aversive distractors showed strong cumulative evidence of effective inhibition, but inconsistent inhibition for neutral distractors. The results are interpreted from a rational search behaviour framework, which suggests that individuals utilise informative cues when they enable the most beneficial strategy and are accessible, and apply these to distractors when they cause sufficient disruption, either to search speed or emotional state.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

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