Does induced positive emotion improve selective attention?

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According to Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory, positive emotion widens the scope of attention and increases creativity. Inducing a mildly positive emotion benefits thinking and problem solving through increased flexibility of cognitive processes. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of induced emotion on selective attention. Participants were 20 university students (8 males, 12 females) aged between 18 to 35 years. Each participant completed the Stroop task in positive, negative and neutral emotion conditions using a counter-balanced repeated measures design. Positive and negative emotions were induced using classical music and the neutral emotion was induced using a metronome. Manipulation checks of each condition were confirmed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. We hypothesised that the positive emotion condition would stimulate faster response times than the negative and neutral conditions on the Stroop task. A one-way repeated measures ANOVA revealed that participants in the positive emotion condition (mean 542.29, SD 26.51) had faster response times than the negative (mean 1013.16, SD 95.55) and neutral emotion (mean 701.97, SD 67.9) conditions (F (2, 38) = 766.58, p < .001). Participants performed best on the Stroop task in the positive emotion condition compared with the negative and neutral emotion conditions. Results support Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory suggesting that positive emotion could improve an individual’s selective attention. Inducing positive emotion using classical music might be a functional technique for sport performers before competition and further studies could examine whether induced positive emotion influences other psychological parameters (e.g., motivation) and performance in applied settings.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • positive emotion
  • selective attention
  • Stroop task


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