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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 30;8(4):e60748. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060748. Print 2013.

Priming for performance: valence of emotional primes interact with dissociable prototype learning systems.

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  • 1Psychology Department, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, United States of America.


Arousal Biased Competition theory suggests that arousal enhances competitive attentional processes, but makes no strong claims about valence effects. Research suggests that the scope of enhanced attention depends on valence with negative arousal narrowing and positive arousal broadening attention. Attentional scope likely affects declarative-memory-mediated and perceptual-representation-mediated learning systems differently, with declarative-memory-mediated learning depending on narrow attention to develop targeted verbalizable rules, and perceptual-representation-mediated learning depending on broad attention to develop a perceptual representation. We hypothesize that negative arousal accentuates declarative-memory-mediated learning and attenuates perceptual-representation-mediated learning, while positive arousal reverses this pattern. Prototype learning provides an ideal test bed as dissociable declarative-memory and perceptual-representation systems mediate two-prototype (AB) and one-prototype (AN) prototype learning, respectively, and computational models are available that provide powerful insights on cognitive processing. As predicted, we found that negative arousal narrows attentional focus facilitating AB learning and impairing AN learning, while positive arousal broadens attentional focus facilitating AN learning and impairing AB learning.

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