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When does size not matter? Effects of stimulus size on affective modulation


  • The authors thank Simone Biondi for his help in data collection. We also thank all the people who volunteered to participate in the study.

Address reprint requests to: Maurizio Codispoti, Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Viale Berti Pichat, 5—40127 Bologna, Italy. E-mail:


Motivationally relevant stimuli have been shown to receive prioritized processing compared to neutral stimuli at distinct processing stages. This effect has been related to the evolutionary importance of rapidly detecting dangers and potential rewards and has been shown to be modulated by the distance between an organism and a faced stimulus. Similarly, recent studies showed degrees of emotional modulation of autonomic responses and subjective arousal ratings depending on stimulus size. In the present study, affective modulation of pictures presented in different sizes was investigated by measuring event-related potentials during a two-choice categorization task. Results showed significant emotional modulation across all sizes at both earlier and later stages of processing. Moreover, affective modulation of earlier processes was reduced in smaller compared to larger sizes, whereas no changes in affective modulation were observed at later stages.