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Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications


This study measured event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to test competing hypotheses regarding the effects of anger and race on early visual processing (N1, P2, and N2) and error recognition (ERN and Pe) during a sequentially primed weapon identification task. The first hypothesis was that anger would impair weapon identification in a biased manner by increasing attention and vigilance to, and decreasing recognition and inhibition of weapon identification errors following, task-irrelevant Black (compared to White) faces. Our competing hypothesis was that anger would facilitate weapon identification by directing attention toward task-relevant stimuli (i.e., objects) and away from task-irrelevant stimuli (i.e., race), and increasing recognition and inhibition of biased errors. Results partially supported the second hypothesis, in that anger increased early attention to faces but minimized attentional processing of race, and did not affect error recognition. Specifically, angry (vs. neutral) participants showed increased N1 to both Black and White faces, ablated P2 race effects, and topographically restricted N2 race effects. Additionally, ERN amplitude was unaffected by emotion, race, or object type. However, Pe amplitude was affected by object type (but not emotion or race), such that Pe amplitude was larger after the misidentification of harmless objects as weapons. Finally, anger slowed overall task performance, especially the correct identification of harmless objects, but did not impact task accuracy. Task performance speed and accuracy were unaffected by the race of the face prime. Implications are discussed.







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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.