Publications by authors named "Serge Caparos"

30 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Cultural Differences in Face Recognition and Potential Underlying Mechanisms.

Front Psychol 2021 13;12:627026. Epub 2021 Apr 13.

Groupe de Neurosciences Sociales, Département de Psychoéducation et de Psychologie, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Gatineau, QC, Canada.

The ability to recognize a face is crucial for the success of social interactions. Understanding the visual processes underlying this ability has been the focus of a long tradition of research. Recent advances in the field have revealed that individuals having different cultural backgrounds differ in the type of visual information they use for face processing. However, the mechanisms that underpin these differences remain unknown. Here, we revisit recent findings highlighting group differences in face processing. Then, we integrate these results in a model of visual categorization developed in the field of psychophysics: the RAP framework. On the basis of this framework, we discuss potential mechanisms, whether face-specific or not, that may underlie cross-cultural differences in face perception.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.627026DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8076495PMC
April 2021

Sensitivity to geometric shape regularity in humans and baboons: A putative signature of human singularity.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Apr;118(16)

Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives, INSERM, Université Paris-Saclay, NeuroSpin, 91191 Gif-Sur-Yvette, France;

Among primates, humans are special in their ability to create and manipulate highly elaborate structures of language, mathematics, and music. Here we show that this sensitivity to abstract structure is already present in a much simpler domain: the visual perception of regular geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles, and parallelograms. We asked human subjects to detect an intruder shape among six quadrilaterals. Although the intruder was always defined by an identical amount of displacement of a single vertex, the results revealed a geometric regularity effect: detection was considerably easier when either the base shape or the intruder was a regular figure comprising right angles, parallelism, or symmetry rather than a more irregular shape. This effect was replicated in several tasks and in all human populations tested, including uneducated Himba adults and French kindergartners. Baboons, however, showed no such geometric regularity effect, even after extensive training. Baboon behavior was captured by convolutional neural networks (CNNs), but neither CNNs nor a variational autoencoder captured the human geometric regularity effect. However, a symbolic model, based on exact properties of Euclidean geometry, closely fitted human behavior. Our results indicate that the human propensity for symbolic abstraction permeates even elementary shape perception. They suggest a putative signature of human singularity and provide a challenge for nonsymbolic models of human shape perception.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023123118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8072260PMC
April 2021

From bias to sound intuiting: Boosting correct intuitive reasoning.

Cognition 2021 Jun 3;211:104645. Epub 2021 Mar 3.

Université de Paris, LaPsyDÉ, CNRS, F-75005 Paris, France.

Although human thinking is often biased by erroneous intuitions, recent de-bias studies suggest that people's performance can be boosted by short training interventions, where the correct answers to reasoning problems are explained. However, the nature of this training effect remains unclear. Does training help participants correct erroneous intuitions through deliberation? Or does it help them develop correct intuitions? We addressed this issue in three studies, by focusing on the well-known Bat-and-Ball problem. We used a two-response paradigm in which participants first gave an initial intuitive response, under time pressure and cognitive load, and then gave a final response after deliberation. Studies 1 and 2 showed that not only did training boost performance, it did so as early as the intuitive stage. After training, most participants solved the problems correctly from the outset and no longer needed to correct an initial incorrect answer through deliberation. Study 3 indicated that this sound intuiting sustained over at least two months. The findings confirm that a short training can boost sound reasoning at an intuitive stage. We discuss key theoretical and applied implications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104645DOI Listing
June 2021

Influence of the month of birth on persistence of ADHD in prospective studies: protocol for an individual patient data meta-analysis.

BMJ Open 2020 11 16;10(11):e040952. Epub 2020 Nov 16.

Center for Innovation in Mental Health, School of Psychology, Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.

Introduction: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with symptoms, especially the hyperactive ones, that tend to decrease in severity with age. Interestingly, children born just before the school-entry cut-off date (ie, the youngest pupils of a classroom) are at higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD compared with children born just after the cut-off date. Noteworthy, this effect tends to disappear with increasing absolute age. Therefore, it is possible that young children erroneously diagnosed with ADHD due to their month of birth present a lower chance to have their diagnosis confirmed at a later age, artificially reinforcing the low persistence of ADHD across the lifespan. This protocol outlines an individual patient data (IPD) meta-analysis of prospective observational studies to explore the role of the month of birth in the low persistence of ADHD across the lifespan.

Methods And Analysis: Five databases will be systematically searched in order to find prospective observational studies where the presence of ADHD is assessed both at baseline and at a follow-up of at least 4 years. We will use a two-stage IPD meta-analytic approach to estimate the role of the month of birth in the persistence of ADHD. Various sensitivity analyses will be performed to assess the robustness of the results.

Ethics And Dissemination: No additional data will be collected and no de-identified raw data will be used. Ethics approval is thus not required for the present study. Results of this IPD meta-analysis will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Prospero Registration Number: CRD42020212650.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-040952DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7670948PMC
November 2020

Impact of Music on Working Memory in Rwanda.

Front Psychol 2020 28;11:774. Epub 2020 Apr 28.

Groupe de Recherche CogNAC, Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Québec, QC, Canada.

Previous research shows that listening to pleasant, stimulating and familiar music is likely to improve working memory performance. The benefits of music on cognition have been widely studied in Western populations, but not in other cultures. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of music on working memory in a non-Western sociocultural context: Rwanda. One hundred and nineteen participants were randomly assigned to a control group (short story) or one of four different musical conditions varying on two dimensions: arousal (relaxing, stimulating) and cultural origin (Western, Rwandan). Working memory was measured using a behavioral task, the n-back paradigm, before and after listening to music (or the short story in the control condition). Unlike in previous studies with Western samples, our results with this Rwandan sample did not show any positive effect of familiar, pleasant and stimulating music on working memory. Performance on the n-back task generally improved from pre to post, in all conditions, but this improvement was less important in participants who listened to familiar Rwandan music compared to those who listened to unfamiliar Western music or to a short story. The study highlights the importance of considering the sociocultural context in research examining the impact of music on cognition. Although different aspects of music are considered universal, there may be cultural differences that limit the generalization of certain effects of music on cognition or that modulate the characteristics that favor its beneficial impact.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00774DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198829PMC
April 2020

The psychological correlates of transitional justice in Rwanda: A long-term assessment.

Psychol Trauma 2020 Oct 20;12(7):774-784. Epub 2020 Apr 20.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec a ` Trois-Rivières.

Objective: We tested the psychological correlates of the Gacaca tribunals, a massive program of transitional justice put in place by the Rwandan government following the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi.

Method: The sample consisted of 679 Rwandese participants, among which 373 (55%) were survivors of the genocide. We contrasted three groups of participants: (1) those who had never attended the Gacaca ( = 229), the control group, (2) those who had attended without testifying ( = 275), the attendance group, and (3) those who had attended and testified ( = 120), the testimony group. In the analyses, we controlled for the level of genocide-related negative consequences that participants reported.

Results: The attendance group presented lower levels of PTSD and depression symptoms than both the control and testimony groups. Both attendance and testimony groups had more positive opinions of the Gacaca and higher openness to reconciliation than the control group.

Conclusions: contrary to what has been reported in two previous studies, participation in the Gacaca was not, in our data, negatively related to mental health or to social cohesion. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000583DOI Listing
October 2020

The interplay between the importance of a decision and emotion in decision-making.

Cogn Emot 2020 09 20;34(6):1260-1270. Epub 2020 Mar 20.

Department of Psychology, Laboratory of Psychopathology and Health Process, University of Paris, Paris, France.

Decision-making literature has demonstrated that individuals' preferences are strongly affected by the way in which choices are presented. This cognitive bias, termed the framing effect, is influenced by the importance of the possible outcomes that a decision can have. However, the direction of this influence remains poorly understood. The aim of this paper was to examine the role of the importance of a decision in framing susceptibility and to explore a potential mechanism underlying this influence. Our first study revealed that participants display a framing effect when their decision implies a high importance outcome, but resist framing manipulation when their decision implies a low importance outcome. Our second study confirmed that an increase in the importance of a decision is associated with increasing framing susceptibility. Moreover, a moderated mediation analysis revealed that the more a decision was important, the more the gain and loss frames aroused opposite emotions, and this accounted for the increase in framing susceptibility. The results of these two studies confirmed that an increase in the importance of a decision is associated with increasing framing susceptibility and suggest that this influence on framing susceptibility is underpinned by emotion. Implications and direction for future studies are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2020.1741340DOI Listing
September 2020

Urbanisation, the arousal system, and covert and overt attentional selection.

Curr Opin Psychol 2020 04 21;32:100-104. Epub 2019 Jul 21.

DysCo, Université Paris 8, France.

Urbanisation is growing rapidly. We review evidence that this growth is altering the default information processing style of human beings by impacting both overt and covert processes of attentional selection (i.e. attentional selection with and without eye movements respectively), in ways consistent with reduced attentional engagement and increased exploration. While the factors and systems mediating these effects are likely to be many and various, we focus on one system which may be responsible for mediating effects on both covert and overt attentional selection. Specifically, the neuromodulatory locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system is key to regulating cognitive function in a behaviourally relevant and arousal-dependent manner and therefore well suited to supporting adaptation to the profound socio-ecological changes inherent in urbanisation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.07.030DOI Listing
April 2020

The local perceptual bias of a non-remote and educated population.

Psychol Res 2020 Jul 26;84(5):1211-1222. Epub 2019 Feb 26.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Canada.

In 1977, Navon argued that perception is biased towards the processing of global as opposed to local visual information (or the forest before the trees) and implicitly assumed this to be true across places and cultures. Previous work with normally developing participants has supported this assumption except in one extremely remote African population. Here, we explore local-global perceptual bias in normally developing African participants living much less remotely than the African population tested previously. These participants had access to modern artefacts and education but presented with a local bias on a similarity-matching Navon task, contrary to Navon's assumptions. Nevertheless, the urban and more educated amongst these participants showed a weaker local bias than the rural and less educated participants, suggesting an effect of urbanicity and education in driving differences in perceptual bias. Our findings confirm the impact of experience on perceptual bias and suggest that differences in the impact of education and urbanicity on lifestyles around the world can result in profound differences in perceptual style. In addition, they suggest that local bias is more common than previously thought; a global bias might not be universal after all.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01158-6DOI Listing
July 2020

The role of mothers' affiliate stigma and child's symptoms on the distress of mothers with ADHD children.

J Ment Health 2019 Jun 25;28(3):282-288. Epub 2018 Oct 25.

b Université de Nîmes , Nîmes , France.

Background: Mothers of ADHD children often display high levels of distress. Understanding the origin of such distress in a view to reducing it is an essential part of the clinical management of ADHD children. Studies have shown that children's symptoms are linked to mothers' stigma and that such stigma can cause mothers' distress. However, no study has explored the links between symptoms, stigma and distress.

Aim: We tested (1) whether children's symptoms are sources of affiliate stigma, which in turn contributes to generating mothers' distress and (2) whether such relationship is stronger in mothers of male ADHD children.

Method: 159 French mothers of an ADHD child were recruited. Four indices were used to assess mothers' distress: anxiety, depression, self-esteem and life satisfaction. Children's ADHD symptoms and mothers' affiliate stigma were also measured and contrasted with distress.

Results: Mothers' distress was positively related with both affiliate stigma and children's ADHD symptoms, but this was only true in mothers of male ADHD children. The relationship between children's symptoms and mothers' distress was mediated by affiliate stigma.

Conclusions: Psychosocial interventions in mothers of ADHD children must integrate affiliate stigma and should be adjusted according to child's gender.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09638237.2018.1521944DOI Listing
June 2019

Long-term cognitive correlates of exposure to trauma: Evidence from Rwanda.

Psychol Trauma 2019 Feb 20;11(2):147-155. Epub 2018 Aug 20.

Departement de Psychologie, Universite de Nimes.

Research increasingly shows links between trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and cognitive functioning. We know relatively little about the long-term cognitive correlates of exposure to trauma, especially in civilian populations exposed to war and political violence.

Objective: Our goal was to examined short-term memory (STM) and executive function 20 years after the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. We hypothesized that performance on these tasks would be negatively related to trauma exposure and to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Method: In two studies, 470 Rwandan participants answered questionnaires measuring the severity of experiences that occurred during the 1994 genocide and current levels of PTSD symptoms. In both studies, we tested STM using a forward digit span task. In the second study, we also measured executive function using a semantic fluency task.

Results: There were modest but significant negative links between the severity of experiences during the genocide and STM function more than 20 years after. Current levels of PTSD symptoms were also related to STM and executive function.

Conclusions: This study reveals the important link between exposure to highly emotional events and cognitive function and highlights the need to attend not only to the mental health but also to the cognitive health of populations exposed to political violence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000388DOI Listing
February 2019

Sexual Abuse Exposure Alters Early Processing of Emotional Words: Evidence from Event-Related Potentials.

Front Hum Neurosci 2017 15;11:655. Epub 2018 Jan 15.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.

This study aimed to compare the time course of emotional information processing between trauma-exposed and control participants, using electrophysiological measures. We conceived an emotional Stroop task with two types of words: trauma-related emotional words and neutral words. We assessed the evoked cerebral responses of sexual abuse victims without post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and no abuse participants. We focused particularly on an early wave (C1/P1), the N2pc, and the P3b. Our main result indicated an early effect (55-165 ms) of emotionality, which varied between non-exposed participants and sexual abuse victims. This suggests that potentially traumatic experiences modulate early processing of emotional information. Our findings showing neurobiological alterations in sexual abuse victims (without PTSD) suggest that exposure to highly emotional events has an important impact on neurocognitive function even in the absence of psychopathology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00655DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5775215PMC
January 2018

Urban experience alters lightness perception.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2018 Jan;44(1):2-6

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London.

We present the first empirical evidence that experience alters lightness perception. The role of experience in lightness perception was investigated through a cross-cultural comparison of 2 visual contrast phenomena: simultaneous lightness contrast and White's illusion. The Himba, a traditional seminomadic group known to have a local bias in perception, showed enhanced simultaneous lightness contrast but reduced White's illusion compared with groups that have a more global perceptual style: Urban-dwelling Himba and Westerners. Thus, experience of the urban environment alters lightness perception and we argue it does this by fostering the tendency to integrate information from across the visual scene. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000498DOI Listing
January 2018

Twenty years later, the cognitive portrait of openness to reconciliation in Rwanda.

Br J Psychol 2018 May 21;109(2):362-385. Epub 2017 Nov 21.

Psychology Department, University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada.

With this work, we intended to draw a cognitive portrait of openness to reconciliation. No study had yet examined the potential contribution of high-level cognitive functioning, in addition to psychological health, to explaining attitudes towards reconciliation in societies exposed to major trauma such as post-genocide Rwanda. We measured the contribution of general cognitive capacity, analytical thinking, and subjective judgements. Our results show that higher cognitive capacity is not associated with greater openness to reconciliation. On the other hand, proneness to think analytically about the genocide predicts more favorable attitudes towards reconciliation. The latter effect is associated with more tempered judgements about retrospective facts (e.g., number of genocide perpetrators) and prospective events (e.g., risk of genocide reoccurrence). This work establishes the importance of cognitive functioning in the aftermath of political violence: A better understanding of the influence of information processing on openness to reconciliation may help improve reconciliation policies and contribute to reducing risks of conflict reoccurrence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12275DOI Listing
May 2018

Working memory function is linked to trauma exposure, independently of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Cogn Neuropsychiatry 2016 11 6;21(6):494-509. Epub 2016 Oct 6.

b Département de Psychologie , Université de Nîmes , Nîmes , France.

Introduction: The purpose of the study was to examine how working memory (WM) may be related to exposure to potentially traumatic events and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method: In four studies, we measured WM function using adaptations of the running span and the reading span tasks. We compared the performance of women reporting experiences of sexual abuse to control participants (total n = 144 controls and 84 victims). We measured severity of the sexual abuse experiences as well as exposure to general life stress.

Results: In all studies, trauma-exposed participants showed significantly lower WM function compared to control participants. In addition to traditional null hypothesis testing, we used a mini-meta analysis to estimate the combined estimated effect size of this difference, which was in the moderate range (d = 0.43 with 0.15-0.70 95% confidence interval). Regression equations showed that PTSD symptoms did not mediate the relationship between trauma exposure and WM function.

Conclusions: Our results show that trauma exposure per se can be associated with important cognitive correlates even in individuals who do not develop psychopathological reactions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13546805.2016.1236015DOI Listing
November 2016

Independent effects of relevance and arousal on deductive reasoning.

Cogn Emot 2017 08 4;31(5):1012-1022. Epub 2016 May 4.

b Département de Psychologie , Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières , Trois-Rivières , Canada.

Emotional content can have either a deleterious or a beneficial impact on logicality. Using standard deductive-reasoning tasks, we tested the hypothesis that the interplay of two factors - personal relevance and arousal - determines the nature of the effect of emotional content on logicality. Arousal was assessed using measures of skin conductance. Personal relevance was manipulated by asking participants to reason about semantic contents linked to an emotional event that they had experienced or not. Findings showed that (1) personal relevance exerts a positive effect on logicality while arousal exerts a negative effect, and that (2) these effects are independent of each other.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2016.1179173DOI Listing
August 2017

Effects of Culture and the Urban Environment on the Development of the Ebbinghaus Illusion.

Child Dev 2016 05 5;87(3):962-81. Epub 2016 Apr 5.

University of London.

The development of visual context effects in the Ebbinghaus illusion in the United Kingdom and in remote and urban Namibians (UN) was investigated (N = 336). Remote traditional Himba children showed no illusion up until 9-10 years, whereas UK children showed a robust illusion from 7 to 8 years of age. Greater illusion in UK than in traditional Himba children was stable from 9 to 10 years to adulthood. A lesser illusion was seen in remote traditional Himba children than in UN children growing up in the nearest town to the traditional Himba villages across age groups. We conclude that cross-cultural differences in perceptual biases to process visual context emerge in early childhood and are influenced by the urban environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12511DOI Listing
May 2016

The tree to the left, the forest to the right: political attitude and perceptual bias.

Cognition 2015 Jan 3;134:155-64. Epub 2014 Nov 3.

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 boulevard des Forges, CP 500, Trois-Rivières G9A 5H7, Canada. Electronic address:

A prominent model suggests that individuals to the right of the political spectrum are more cognitively rigid and less tolerant of ambiguity than individuals to the left. On the basis of this model, we predicted that a psychological mechanism linked to the resolution of visual ambiguity--perceptual bias--would be linked to political attitude. Perceptual bias causes western individuals to favour a global interpretation when scrutinizing ambiguous hierarchical displays (e.g., alignment of trees) that can be perceived either in terms of their local elements (e.g., several trees) or in terms of their global structure (e.g., a forest). Using three tasks (based on Navon-like hierarchical figures or on the Ebbinghaus illusion), we demonstrate (1) that right-oriented Westerners present a stronger bias towards global perception than left-oriented Westerners and (2) that this stronger bias is linked to higher cognitive rigidity. This study establishes for the first time that political ideology, a high-level construct, is directly reflected in low-level perception. Right- and left-oriented individuals actually see the world differently.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2014.10.006DOI Listing
January 2015

Urbanization increases left-bias in line-bisection: an expression of elevated levels of intrinsic alertness?

Front Psychol 2014 9;5:1127. Epub 2014 Oct 9.

Psychology, Goldsmiths University of London London, UK.

Urbanization impairs attentional selection and increases distraction from task-irrelevant contextual information, consistent with a reduction in attentional engagement with the task in hand. Previously, we proposed an attentional-state account of these findings, suggesting that urbanization increases intrinsic alertness and with it exploration of the wider environment at the cost of engagement with the task in hand. Here, we compare urbanized people with a remote people on a line-bisection paradigm. We show that urbanized people have a left spatial bias where remote people have no significant bias. These findings are consistent with the alertness account and provide the first test of why remote peoples have such an extraordinary capacity to concentrate.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01127DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4190999PMC
October 2014

Emotional Stroop interference in trauma-exposed individuals: a contrast between two accounts.

Conscious Cogn 2014 Aug 22;28:104-12. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351 Boul. des Forges, CP 500, Trois-Rivières, G9A 5H7 Québec, Canada. Electronic address:

In the Emotional Stroop task, trauma-exposed victims are slowed when naming the colour print of trauma-related words, showing the presence of interference. This interference has been assumed to reflect emotional reactions triggered by experience-relevant emotional content which interfere with the task. However, it may equally reflect the activation of task-competing thoughts triggered by experience-relevant semantic content, thus resulting from cognitive- rather than emotion-driven processes. This study contrasted these possibilities by measuring the relationship between Emotional Stroop interference, on the one hand, and severity of sexual-abuse experience, subjective ratings of emotionality, and working-memory measures, on the other. Whereas there was no relationship between working-memory measures and interference, providing no support for the cognitive-based account, experience severity, emotionality ratings and abuse-related interference were all positively related, providing support for the emotion-based account. These findings support the idea that the Emotional Stroop task can be used as a diagnostic tool for emotion-filtering impairment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2014.06.009DOI Listing
August 2014

Perceptual load and early selection: an effect of attentional engagement?

Front Psychol 2013 2;4:498. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London London, UK.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00498DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731537PMC
August 2013

Urbanization decreases attentional engagement.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2013 Oct 21;39(5):1232-47. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Exposure to the urban environment has been shown dramatically to increase the tendency to process contextual information. To further our understanding of this effect of urbanization, we compared performance on a local-selection task of a remote people, the Himba, living traditionally or relocated to town. We showed that (a) spatial attention was defocused in urbanized Himba but focused in traditional Himba (Experiment 1), despite urbanized Himba performing better on a working memory task (Experiment 3); (b) imposing a cognitive load made attention as defocused in traditional as in urbanized Himba (Experiment 2); and (c) using engaging stimuli/tasks made attention as focused in urbanized Himba, and British, as in traditional Himba (Experiments 4 and 5). We propose that urban environments prioritize exploration at the expense of attentional engagement and cognitive control of attentional selection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0031139DOI Listing
October 2013

Do local and global perceptual biases tell us anything about local and global selective attention?

Psychol Sci 2013 Feb 8;24(2):206-12. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.

Local, as opposed to global, perceptual bias has been linked to a lesser ability to attend globally. We examined this proposed link in Himba observers, members of a remote Namibian population who have demonstrated a strong local bias compared with British observers. If local perceptual bias is related to a lesser ability to attend globally, Himba observers, relative to British observers, should be less distracted by global information when performing a local-selection task but more distracted by local information when performing a global-selection task. However, Himba observers performed better than British observers did on both a local-selection task and a global-selection task (both of which used local/global hierarchical figures as stimuli), which suggests that they possessed greater control over attentional selection in response to task demands. We conclude that local and global perceptual biases must be distinguished from local and global selective attention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797612452569DOI Listing
February 2013

"Bouba" and "Kiki" in Namibia? A remote culture make similar shape-sound matches, but different shape-taste matches to Westerners.

Cognition 2013 Feb 31;126(2):165-72. Epub 2012 Oct 31.

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, UK.

Western participants consistently match certain shapes with particular speech sounds, tastes, and flavours. Here we demonstrate that the "Bouba-Kiki effect", a well-known shape-sound symbolism effect commonly observed in Western participants, is also observable in the Himba of Northern Namibia, a remote population with little exposure to Western cultural and environmental influences, and who do not use a written language. However, in contrast to Westerners, the Himba did not map carbonation (in a sample of sparkling water) onto an angular (as opposed to a rounded) shape. Furthermore, they also tended to match less bitter (i.e., milk) chocolate samples to angular rather than rounded shapes; the opposite mapping to that shown by Westerners. Together, these results show that cultural-environmental as well as phylogenetic factors play a central role in shaping our repertoire of crossmodal correspondences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2012.09.007DOI Listing
February 2013

Trait anxiety focuses spatial attention.

Emotion 2012 Feb 12;12(1):8-12. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, England.

Some findings suggest that trait anxiety impairs selective attention (e.g., Fox, 1993) while others suggest the opposite (e.g., Murray & Janelle, 2003). Both views may hold some truth if trait anxiety affects different levels of selective attention in opposite directions: trait anxiety might improve spatial attention, or perceptual selection, but weaken postperceptual selection. We used an adaptation of the flanker task (Eriksen & Hoffman, 1973) which distinguishes between spatial attention and postperceptual selection (Caparos & Linnell, 2010) to test this hypothesis. Trait anxiety was found to improve spatial attention but not to affect post-perceptual selection. The latter null effect may have resulted from the relatively high perceptual load used in this study. The focusing effect of trait anxiety suggests that anxiety reduces perceptual resources or increases cognitive engagement.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0026310DOI Listing
February 2012

Reduced distractibility in a remote culture.

PLoS One 2011 19;6(10):e26337. Epub 2011 Oct 19.

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, United Kingdom.

Background: In visual processing, there are marked cultural differences in the tendency to adopt either a global or local processing style. A remote culture (the Himba) has recently been reported to have a greater local bias in visual processing than Westerners. Here we give the first evidence that a greater, and remarkable, attentional selectivity provides the basis for this local bias.

Methodology/principal Findings: In Experiment 1, Eriksen-type flanker interference was measured in the Himba and in Western controls. In both groups, responses to the direction of a task-relevant target arrow were affected by the compatibility of task-irrelevant distractor arrows. However, the Himba showed a marked reduction in overall flanker interference compared to Westerners. The smaller interference effect in the Himba occurred despite their overall slower performance than Westerners, and was evident even at a low level of perceptual load of the displays. In Experiment 2, the attentional selectivity of the Himba was further demonstrated by showing that their attention was not even captured by a moving singleton distractor.

Conclusions/significance: We argue that the reduced distractibility in the Himba is clearly consistent with their tendency to prioritize the analysis of local details in visual processing.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0026337PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198475PMC
March 2012

Exposure to an urban environment alters the local bias of a remote culture.

Cognition 2012 Jan 29;122(1):80-5. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

Goldsmiths, University of London, London SE14 6NW, UK.

There is substantial evidence that populations in the Western world exhibit a local bias compared to East Asian populations that is widely ascribed to a difference between individualistic and collectivist societies. However, we report that traditional Himba - a remote interdependent society - exhibit a strong local bias compared to both Japanese and British participants in the Ebbinghaus illusion and in a similarity-matching task with hierarchical figures. Critically, we measured the effect of exposure to an urban environment on local bias in the Himba. Even a brief exposure to an urban environment caused a shift in processing style: the local bias was reduced in traditional Himba who had visited a local town and even more reduced in urbanised Himba who had moved to that town on a permanent basis. We therefore propose that exposure to an urban environment contributes to the global bias found in Western and Japanese populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2011.08.013DOI Listing
January 2012

Perceptual and cognitive load interact to control the spatial focus of attention.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2011 Oct;37(5):1643-8

Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London SE14 6NW, United Kingdom.

Caparos and Linnell (2009, 2010) used a variable-separation flanker paradigm to show that (a) when cognitive load is low, increasing perceptual load causes spatial attention to focus and (b) when perceptual load is high, decreasing cognitive load causes spatial attention to focus. Here, we tested whether the effects of perceptual and cognitive load on spatial focus remain when, respectively, cognitive load is high and perceptual load is low. We found that decreasing cognitive load only causes spatial attention to focus when perceptual load is high and the stimulus encourages this. Moreover, and contrary to the widely held assumption that perceptual load focuses attention automatically (Lavie, Hirst, de Fockert, & Viding, 2004), perceptual load exerts its focusing effect only with the engagement of cognitive resources when cognitive load is low. In sum, perceptual and cognitive mechanisms exert interacting effects and operate in concert to focus spatial attention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0024669DOI Listing
October 2011

The spatial focus of attention is controlled at perceptual and cognitive levels.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2010 Oct;36(5):1080-107

Department of Psychology, University of London, London, SE14 6NW, UK.

Selective attention has been hypothesized to reduce distractor interference at both perceptual and postperceptual levels (Lavie, 2005), respectively, by focusing perceptual resources on the attended location and by blocking at postperceptual levels distractors that survive perceptual selection. This study measured the impact of load on these selection mechanisms using a flanker paradigm (Eriksen & St. James, 1986) and indexing distractor interference as a function of separation. It distinguished changes in the extent of focus of the distractor-interference function of separation (reflecting perceptual selection) from changes in the amplitude of distractor interference not accompanied by changes in focus (reflecting postperceptual selection). It showed that: (1) the spatial profile of perceptual resources is shaped like a "Mexican hat" (Müller et al., 2005); (2) increasing perceptual load focuses perceptual resources (Caparos & Linnell, 2009); (3) increasing cognitive load defocuses perceptual resources; and (4) participants with reduced working-memory span show reduced postperceptual blocking of distractors. While these findings are consistent with two levels of selective attention, they show that the first perceptual level is affected not only by perceptual but also by cognitive-control mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0020367DOI Listing
October 2010

Focused attention is not enough to activate discontinuities in lines, but scrutiny is.

Conscious Cogn 2005 Sep;14(3):613-32

INSERM U666, Département de Psychiatrie I, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, Cedex, France.

We distinguish between the roles played by spatial attention and conscious intention in terms of their impact on the processing of segmentation signals, like discontinuities in lines, associated with the act of scrutinizing. We showed previously that the processing of discontinuities in lines can be activated. This is evidenced by an impairment in the detection of a gap between parallel elements when it follows a gap between collinear elements in the same location and orientation. This effect is no longer observed if attention is divided between two gaps in the first stimulus. The results from this study show that focusing attention on a gap between collinear elements is not enough to observe a modulation, consistently with the need to integrate, rather than to separate, collinear elements in usual conditions. The modulation is sensitive to the conscious expectations of subjects, suggesting that an intention can trigger modulations that spatial attention cannot.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2005.01.007DOI Listing
September 2005