It's long been recognized that our emotions can affect our mental health, but a new study by two University of Delaware psychology professors shows that emotions can actually affect what our eyes see.
In the experiment, female subjects who were made to feel jealous were so distracted by unpleasant emotional images they became unable to spot targets on a computer screen that they were trying to find. The researchers say this reveals something profound about social relationships and perception: social emotions can literally affect what we see.
Reporting their experimental work in the journal Emotion, psychology professors Steven Most and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau explain how heterosexual couples sat near each other at separate computers. The woman was asked to detect targets (pictures of landscapes) amid rapid streams of images, while trying to ignore occasional emotionally unpleasant (gruesome or graphic) images.
The man was asked to rate the attractiveness of landscapes that appeared on his screen. Partway through the experiment, the experimenter announced the male partner would now rate the attractiveness of other single women.
At the end, the females were asked how uneasy they felt about their partner rating other women's attractiveness. The researchers found that the more jealous the women felt, the more they were so distracted by unpleasant images that they could not see the targets. This relationship between jealousy and "emotion-induced blindness" emerged only during the time that the male partner was rating other women.
The researchers have not yet carried out the same experiment with males as the focus.
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Source: University of Delaware