Neuroticism influences pupillary responses during an emotional interference task
Prehn, K., Blasek, K., Lapschies, K., Mews, I., Heekeren, H. R., van der Meer, E. – 2008
We used behavioral and pupillary measures during an analogical reasoning task to investigate the processing of conceptual and emotional relations as well as their interaction. In particular, we examined how mental resource consumption is modulated by individual differences in neuroticism in healthy participants during conditions with emotional interference. Two word pairs were presented simultaneously, each with a conceptual and an emotional relation. In one experimental block, participants had to decide whether conceptual relations between the two word pairs were corresponding (conceptual task). In the other block, participants had to decide whether emotional relations were corresponding (emotional task). When participants had to focus on the correspondence of emotional relations, they were faster, more accurate, and showed greater pupillary responses than during the conceptual task. Moreover, participants with comparably higher neuroticism scores showed increased pupillary responses during conditions with emotional interference (i.e., during the conceptual task when they had to ignore incongruent information on the correspondence provided by the task-irrelevant emotional relations). These results demonstrate that affective aspects of stimuli (here: emotional relations) are preferentially selected for information processing. Moreover, increased mental resource consumption due to emotional interference in participants with comparably higher neuroticism scores might reflect a possible mechanism making these individuals more vulnerable to mood or anxiety disorders.