Motivational intensity and visual word search: Layout matters

Marco Filetti*, Oswald Barral, Giulio Jacucci, Niklas Ravaja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
158 Downloads (Pure)


Motivational intensity has been previously linked to information processing. In particular, it has been argued that affects which are high in motivational intensity tend to narrow cognitive scope. A similar effect has been attributed to negative affect, which has been linked to narrowing of cognitive scope. In this paper, we investigated how these phenomena manifest themselves during visual word search. We conducted three studies in which participants were instructed to perform word category identification. We manipulated motivational intensity by controlling reward expectations and affect via reward outcomes. Importantly, we altered visual search paradigms, assessing the effects of affective manipulations as modulated by information arrangement. We recorded multiple physiological signals (EEG, EDA, ECG and eye tracking) to assess whether motivational states can be predicted by physiology. Across the three studies, we found that high motivational intensity narrowed visual attentional scope by altering visual search strategies, especially when information was displayed sparsely. Instead, when information was vertically listed, approach-directed motivational intensity appeared to improve memory encoding. We also observed that physiology, in particular eye tracking, may be used to detect biases induced by motivational intensity, especially when information is sparsely organised.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0218926
Pages (from-to)1-36
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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