Attentional modulation as a mechanism for enhanced facial emotion discrimination: The case of action video game players
Ciobanu A., Shibata K., Ali L., Rioja K., Andersen SK., Bavelier D., Bediou B.
AbstractAction video game players (AVGPs) outperform nonvideo game players (NVGPs) on a wide variety of attentional tasks, mediating benefits to perceptual and cognitive decision processes. A key issue in the literature is the extent to which such benefits transfer beyond cognition. Using steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEP) as a neural measure of attentional resource allocation, we investigated whether the attentional benefit of AVGPs generalizes to the processing of rapidly presented facial emotions. AVGPs (n = 36) and NVGPs (n = 32) performed a novel, attention-demanding emotion discrimination task, requiring the identification of a target emotion in one of two laterally presented streams of emotional faces. The emotional faces flickered at either 2.0 Hz or 2.5 Hz. AVGPs outperformed NVGPs at detecting the target emotions regardless of the type of emotion. Correspondingly, attentional modulation of the SSVEP at parieto-occipital recording sites was larger in AVGPs compared with NVGPs. This difference appeared to be driven by a larger response to attended information, as opposed to a reduced response to irrelevant distractor information. Exploratory analyses confirmed that this novel paradigm elicited the expected pattern of event-related potentials associated with target detection and error processing. These components did not, however, differ between groups. Overall, the results indicate enhanced discrimination of facial emotions in AVGPs arising from enhanced attentional processing of emotional information. This presents evidence for the attentional advantage of AVGPs to extend beyond perceptual and cognitive processes.