Unconscious processing of coarse visual information during anticipatory threat
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Number of pages
SourceConsciousness and Cognition, 70, (2019), pp. 50-56
Article / Letter to editor
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PI Group Affective Neuroscience
SW OZ BSI KLP
PI Group Memory and Emotion
Consciousness and Cognition
Subject130 000 Cognitive Neurology & Memory; 230 Affective Neuroscience; All institutes and research themes of the Radboud University Medical Center; Experimental Psychopathology and Treatment; Radboudumc 13: Stress-related disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Rapid detection of threats has been proposed to rely on automatic processing of their coarse visual features. However, it remains unclear whether such a mechanism is restricted to detection of threat cues, or whether it reflects a broader sensitivity to even neutral coarse visual information features during states of threat. We used a backward masking task in which participants discriminated the orientation of subliminally presented low (3 cpd) and high (6 cpd) spatial frequency gratings, under threat (of shock) and safe conditions. Visual awareness of the gratings was assessed objectively using an additional localization task. When participants were unaware of the gratings, above chance and improved discrimination of low-spatial frequency gratings was observed under threat compared to safe trials. These findings demonstrate unconscious processing of neutral coarse visual information during threat state, supporting the view that automatic threat detection may rely on a general facilitation of coarse features irrespective of threat content.
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