Stimuli that evoke emotions are salient, draw attentional resources, and facilitate situationally appropriate behavior in complex or conflicting environments. However, negative and positive emotions may motivate different response strategies. For example, a threatening stimulus might evoke avoidant behavior, whereas a positive stimulus may prompt approaching behavior. Therefore, emotional stimuli might either elicit differential behavioral responses when a conflict arises or simply mark salience. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate valence-specific emotion effects on attentional control in conflict processing by employing an adapted flanker task with neutral, negative, and positive stimuli. Slower responses were observed for incongruent than congruent trials. Neural activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex was associated with conflict processing regardless of emotional stimulus quality. These findings confirm that both negative and positive emotional stimuli mark salience in both low (congruent) and high (incongruent) conflict scenarios. Regardless of the conflict level, emotional stimuli deployed greater attentional resources in goal directed behavior. [Abstract copyright: © 2022. The Author(s).]
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Early online date25 Jul 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jul 2022


  • Salience
  • Emotion
  • Valence
  • fMRI
  • Conflict processing


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