• What drives prioritized visual processing? A motivational relevance account

      Maratos, Frances A.; Pessoa, Luiz; University of Derby; University of Maryland (Elsevier, 2019-04-29)
      Emotion is fundamental to our being, and an essential aspect guiding behavior when rapid responding is required. This includes whether we approach or avoid a stimulus, and the accompanying physiological responses. A common tenet is that threat-related content drives stimulus processing and biases visual attention, so that rapid responding can be initiated. In this paper, it will be argued instead that prioritization of threatening stimuli should be encompassed within a motivational relevance framework. To more fully understand what is, or is not, prioritized for visual processing one must, however, additionally consider: (i) stimulus ambiguity and perceptual saliency; (ii) task demands, including both perceptual load and cognitive load; and (iii) endogenous/affective states of the individual. Combined with motivational relevance, this then leads to a multifactorial approach to understanding the drivers of prioritized visual processing. This accords with current recognition that the brain basis allowing for visual prioritization is also multifactorial, including transient, dynamic and overlapping networks. Taken together, the paper provides a reconceptualization of how “emotional” information prioritizes visual processing.