Exploring the ‘mood congruency’ hypothesis of attention allocation – An eye-tracking study

Nimrod Hertz-Palmor, Yam Yosef, Hadar Hallel, Inbar Bernat, Amit Lazarov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The ‘mood-congruency’ hypothesis of attention allocation postulates that individuals' current emotional states affect their attention allocation, such that mood-congruent stimuli take precedence over non-congruent ones. This hypothesis has been further suggested as an underlying mechanism of biased attention allocation in depression. Methods: The present research explored the mood-congruency hypothesis using a novel video-based mood elicitation procedure (MEP) and an established eye-tracking attention allocation assessment task, elaborating prior research in the field. Specifically, in Study 1 (n = 91), a video-based MEP was developed and rigorously validated. In study 2 (n = 60), participants' attention allocation to sad and happy face stimuli, each presented separately alongside neutral faces, was assessed before and after the video-based MEP, with happiness induced in one group (n = 30) while inducing sadness in the other (n = 30). Results: In Study 1, the MEP yielded the intended modification of participants' current mood states (eliciting either sadness or happiness). Study 2 showed that while the MEP modified mood in the intended direction in both groups, replicating the results of Study 1, corresponding changes in attention allocation did not ensue in either group. A Bayesian analysis of pre-to-post mood elicitation changes in attention allocation supported this null finding. Moreover, results revealed an attention bias to happy faces across both groups and assessment points, suggestive of a trait-like positive bias in attention allocation among non-selected participants. Conclusion: Current results provide no evidence supporting the mood-congruency hypothesis, which suggests that (biased) attention allocation may be better conceptualized as a depressive trait, rather than a mood-congruent state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-629
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume347
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • Attention allocation
  • Attention bias
  • Eye-tracking
  • Mood congruency
  • Mood elicitation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology

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