Seeing the world through target-tinted glasses: Positive mood broadens perceptual tuning


Research shows that positive mood can serve to broaden the scope of attention at both the perceptual and conceptual level (e.g., increasing the size of spatial attentional focus and semantic access to remote associates). We investigated whether this relaxation of attentional filters by positive affect reduces their selectivity for basic visual features. We induced positive, neutral, or negative affect and asked observers to identify a target motion direction in a series of rapid random moving dot displays. Using a reverse correlation method, we examined the differential effects of emotion on observers’ perceptual tuning curves for motion direction. Here we find that positive affect reduces selectivity for motion direction by broadening observers’ perceptual tuning relative to both neutral and negative affect conditions. These findings provide the first behavioral evidence that positive emotion influences selectivity for basic visual features through modulation of tuning properties.

Emotion, 15(3), 1931-1516