The divergent effects of fear and disgust on inhibitory control: An ERP study

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© 2015 Xu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Negative emotional stimuli have been shown to attract attention and impair executive control. However, two different types of unpleasant stimuli, fearful and disgusting, are often inappropriately treated as a single category in the literature on inhibitory control. Therefore, the present study aimed to investigate the divergent effects of fearful and disgusting distracters on inhibitory control (both conscious and unconscious inhibition). Specifically, participants were engaged in a masked Go/No-Go task superimposed on fearful, disgusting, or neutral emotional contexts, while event-related potentials were measured concurrently. The results showed that for both conscious and unconscious conditions, disgusting stimuli elicited a larger P2 than fearful ones, and the difference waves of P3 amplitude under disgusting contexts were smaller than that under fearful contexts. These results suggest that disgusting distracters consume more attentional resources and therefore impair subsequent inhibitory control to a greater extent. This study is the first to provide electrophysiological evidence that fear and disgust differently affect inhibitory control. These results expand our understanding of the relationship between emotions and inhibitory control.




Xu, M., Li, Z., Ding, C., Zhang, J., Fan, L., Diao, L., & Yang, D. (2015). The divergent effects of fear and disgust on inhibitory control: An ERP study. PLoS ONE, 10(6).

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