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Folyi, Timea; Liesefeld, Heinrich René; Wentura, Dirk (February 2016): Attentional enhancement for positive and negative tones at an early stage of auditory processing. In: Biological Psychology, Vol. 114: pp. 23-32
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Abstract

We report an event-related potential (ERP) study based on the hypothesis that valenced (i.e., positive and/or negative) tones are prioritized over neutral ones at an early, perceptual stage of auditory processing. In order to avoid perceptual confounds, we induced valence experimentally during a learning phase by assigning positive, negative, and neutral valences to tone-frequencies in a balanced design. In a subsequent test phase, EEG was recorded while these tones were entirely task-irrelevant. The amplitude of the auditory N1 was increased for valenced compared with neutral tones, indicating enhanced attention. While behavioral results of the learning phase, and both implicit and explicit measures of tone evaluation indicated differentiation between positive and negative valence, there was no such differentiation on the N1 amplitude. Our results suggest that it is the general relevance of the valenced tones that governs early attentional processes.