Verbal and facial-emotional Stroop tasks reveal specific attentional interferences in sad mood


Linda Isaac, Department of Clinical Psychology, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, Montessorilaan 3, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail: +31 (0)24 36 13032 fax: +31 (0) 24 361 5594


Mood congruence refers to the tendency of individuals to attend to information more readily when it has the same emotional content as their current mood state. The aim of the present study was to ascertain whether attentional interference occurred for participants in sad mood states for emotionally relevant stimuli (mood-congruence), and to determine whether this interference occurred for both valenced words and valenced faces. A mood induction procedure was administered to 116 undergraduate females divided into two equal groups for the sad and happy mood condition. This study employed three versions of the Stroop task: color, verbal-emotional, and a facial-emotional Stroop. The two mood groups did not differ on the color Stroop. Significant group differences were found on the verbal-emotional Stroop for sad words with longer latencies for sad-induced participants. Main findings for the facial-emotional Stroop were that sad mood is associated with attentional interference for angry-threatening faces as well as longer latencies for neutral faces. Group differences were not found for positive stimuli. These findings confirm that sad mood is associated with attentional interference for mood-congruent stimuli in the verbal domain (sad words), but this mood-congruent effect does not necessarily apply to the visual domain (sad faces). Attentional interference for neutral faces suggests sad mood participants did not necessarily see valence-free faces. Attentional interference for threatening stimuli is often associated with anxiety; however, the current results show that threat is not an attentional interference observed exclusively in states of anxiety but also in sad mood.