What is it about?

This study aims to explore whether the implicit processing of emotional symbols related to patriotic sentiment can exert some effects on the performance of attention. That is, it is a variation of the classic paradigm known as emotional attentional blink (EAP). Can an emotionally charged stimulus make another stimulus before our eyes invisible? As emotional stimuli we used flags with different meanings for the participants (Catalan-Estelada, Spanish and European Union) to measure the strength of the blinking of emotional attention (PAE), using the experimental paradigm of rapid visual presentation of series of images (RPSVI) . The results of the EAB task show a significant emotion-induced blindness for the emotional stimuli representing Catalan and Spanish patriotism (α = .05), while the effect does not appear for the stimulus representing neutral patriotism. The "Flags x Patriotism" interaction was also significant. We also applied to the subjects a test of "congruence judgments", where the participants had to judge the affinity between pairs of political leaders and flags of different signs for the community participants, while we recorded two physiological measures (variance of heart rate and Galvanic skin response) to evaluate the variations caused by this pair of stimuli. The results of the second task show that the measures derived from the electrophysiological recordings are sensitive to patriotic sentiment, both being complementary.

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Why is it important?

The impact of this type of belief (patriotism/nationalism) on attention has both practical and theoretical implications. At the methodological level, for example, the intensity with which a particular belief is rooted in a person could be quantified by measuring the strength of the EAB effect through emotional stimuli that represent or support that belief. In addition, on a practical level, the EAB paradigm could allow us to detect alterations in sensitivity to relevant emotional stimuli in some psychiatric disorders (e.g., phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, etc.), or those derived from addictions such as alcoholism, drugs or gambling. On a theoretical level, a way is opened that could allow examining the influence of feelings and emotions evoked by a symbol (e.g., a flag) significant for the subject on cognition (attention). This would help understand the extent to which early processing that receives automatic attention is flexible, determining access to its meaning and, therefore, to consciousness.


These symbols (flags) represent ideas (e.g. love to the own nation, national proud, even radical nationalism) and depend on the context in which they are framed, being open to subtle top-down components (expectations, demands, interests, desires, preferences, etc.).

Professor J. Antonio Aznar-Casanova
Universitat de Barcelona

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This page is a summary of: The Emotional Attentional Blink as a Measure of Patriotism, The Spanish Journal of Psychology, January 2020, Cambridge University Press, DOI: 10.1017/sjp.2020.32.
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