Fleeting images: A new look at early emotion discrimination


Address reprint requests to: Markus Junghöfer, Box 100165, Health Sciences Center, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0165, USA. E-mail: junghofe@ufl.edu.


The visual brain quickly sorted stimuli for emotional impact despite high-speed presentation (3 or 5 per s) in a sustained, serial torrent of 700 complex pictures. Event-related potentials, recorded with a dense electrode array, showed selective discrimination of emotionally arousing stimuli from less affective content. Primary sources of this activation were over the occipital cortices, extending to right parietal cortex, suggesting a processing focus in the posterior visual system. Emotion discrimination was independent of formal pictorial properties (color, brightness, spatial frequency, and complexity). The data support the hypothesis of a very short-term conceptual memory store (M. C. Potter, 1999)—shown here to include a fleeting but reliable assessment of affective meaning.