The impact of emotional images on motivation, attention and decision making

Electronic versions


  • Nicholas A. Peatfield


The level of meaning towards images is defined by numerous constructs. From an individuals knowledge of the object the image portrays to the emotion that the object elicits. A vast amount of work has been conducted to look at the interplay of objects representations and the resultant impact upon performance and learning. Within this thesis, the aim was to add further depth to our understanding of these representational impacts. In a series of ten experiments we looked at the role of meaningful images in decision-making, time perception, and inhibitory control. Within the decision-making experiments we found that meaning and its subsequent representations impacted upon the way we perform and learn during emotional decision-making paradigms. In particularly we find that the infonnation that the object gives can bias the decision of participants even if unrelated to the actual task in hand; a form of incidental impact on the way that behaviour can be shaped. Within the time perception experiments we found that at the low-level these objects and their meaning impacts not wholly on the way that we perceive a perceptual event. Indeed it was only during the most meaningful images that we found an effect of perceptual acuity. Within the inhibitory control experiments, we showed that the overlap between an objects familiarity and emotionality hinders the way in which we can study meaning. However, what it does suggest is that the two effects drive in the same direction. Furthermore when looking at the neural correlates of meaning we found a suggestion ofprefrontal and subcortical networks that strive to represent the anticipatory reward of an objects meaning, and specifically differ in their activation during various states of motivation. In conclusion, we suggest that measuring the level of meaning towards an object is important and that the persuasive nature of meaningful images can differ as a function of personal relevance.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Bangor University
  • James Intriligator (Supervisor)
Award dateApr 2011