Out of sight, out of mind: Cognitive states alter the focus of attention

Chantal Den Daas, Michael Häfner, John De Wit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


People in an impulsive state are influenced mainly by the immediate incentive value of appetitive stimuli, whereas people in a reflective state usually also consider the (sometimes negative) long-term consequences of such stimuli. In order to consider all information, we hypothesize that, people in reflective states distribute their attention over all available information, whereas people in impulsive states focus their attention on the most salient information. We measured cognitive states using eye-blink rate (Experiment 1) or induced them with a procedural priming manipulation (Experiments 2 and 3). In eye-tracking Experiments 1 and 2, we established that people in an impulsive state indeed focus their attention on the salient information, whereas people in a reflective state distribute their attention. Moreover, we show that this attentional difference extends to evaluative judgments (Experiment 3), which could potentially contribute to people’s increased propensity to risk in impulsive states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-323
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2013


  • Attention
  • Cognitive states
  • Eye-blink rate (EBR)
  • Eye-tracker
  • Impulsive versus reflective behavior
  • Sexual attractiveness


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