The emotional attentional blink: What we know so far. Running title: The emotional attentional blink

Maureen McHugo, Bunmi O. Olatunji, David H. Zald

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The emotional attentional blink (EAB), also known as emotion-induced blindness, refers to a phenomenon in which the brief appearance of a task-irrelevant, emotionally arousing image captures attention to such an extent that individuals cannot detect target stimuli for several hundred ms after the emotional stimulus. The EAB allows for mental chronometry of stimulus-driven attention and the time needed to disengage and refocus goal-directed attention. In this review, we discuss current evidence for the mechanisms through which the EAB occurs. Although the EAB shares some similarities to both surprise-induced blindness and other paradigms for assessing emotion-attention interactions, it possesses features that are distinct from these paradigms, and thus appears to provide a unique measure of the influence of emotion on stimulus-driven attention. The neural substrates of the EAB are not completely understood, but neuroimaging and neuropsychological data suggest some possible neural mechanisms underlying the phenomenon. The importance of understanding the EAB is highlighted by recent evidence indicating that EAB tasks can detect altered sensitivity to disorder relevant stimuli in psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberAPR 2013
StatePublished - Apr 6 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • Attentional blink
  • Emotion
  • Stimulus-driven attention


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