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The selective processing of briefly presented affective pictures: An ERP analysis


  • This research was supported by grants from the German research foundation Schu1074/7-1 to Harald Schupp and Ha1593/10-2 to Alfons Hamm. We thank Jessica Stockburger and Johannes Bahlmann for their assistance in data collection.

Address reprint requests to: Harald T. Schupp, Institute of Psychology, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Konstanz, Mailbox D36, 78457 Konstanz, Germany. E-mail:


Recent event-related potential (ERP) studies revealed the selective processing of affective pictures. The present study explored whether the same phenomenon can be observed when pictures are presented only briefly. Toward this end, pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures from the International Affective Pictures Series were presented for 120 ms while event related potentials were measured by dense sensor arrays. As observed for longer picture presentations, brief affective pictures were selectively processed. Specifically, pleasant and unpleasant pictures were associated with an early endogenous negative shift over temporo-occipital sensors compared to neutral images. In addition, affective pictures elicited enlarged late positive potentials over centro-parietal sensor sites relative to neutral images. These data suggest that a quick glimpse of emotionally relevant stimuli appears sufficient to tune the brain for selective perceptual processing.