Affect-biased attention as emotion regulation

Trends Cogn Sci. 2012 Jul;16(7):365-72. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2012.06.003. Epub 2012 Jun 18.


The affective biasing of attention is not typically considered to be a form of emotion regulation. In this article, we argue that 'affect-biased attention' - the predisposition to attend to certain categories of affectively salient stimuli over others - provides an important component of emotion regulation. Affect-biased attention regulates subsequent emotional responses by tuning one's filters for initial attention and subsequent processing. By reviewing parallel research in the fields of emotion regulation and affect-biased attention, as well as clinical and developmental research on individual differences in attentional biases, we provide convergent evidence that habitual affective filtering processes, tuned and re-tuned over development and situation, modulate emotional responses to the world. Moreover, they do so in a manner that is proactive rather than reactive.

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Models, Neurological