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The present study analyzed the impact of gaze behavior in response to disgusting, fearful, and neutral pictures while participants operate under a cognitive load. Participants were exposed to fearful and disgusting stimuli and their eye movements were tracked accordingly. Participants were randomly sorted into either the cognitive load or no-cognitive load groups. Those within the cognitive load group were given a 5-digit memorization task before each of the four trial sets while the no cognitive load group received a break (in the form of a blank screen) instead. After completing the free-viewing task, participants from both groups were prompted to evaluate each of the disgusting and fearful pictorial stimuli on scales for measures of disgustingness, fearfulness, and arousal. Participants subjected to a cognitive load during the free-viewing task showed significantly shorter initial dwell times on disgusting and fearful stimuli than participants that did not receive a cognitive load. However, there was no significant difference in initial dwellings between the fearful and disgusting stimuli themselves. Furthermore, the disgust ratings did not predict longer or shorter dwell times on corresponding disgust stimuli, nor did the fear ratings predict longer or shorter dwell times on fearful stimuli. These findings indicate cognitive load as playing a key role in disgust evaluation and resilience thereof, pointing to working memory capacity as the key resource fueling these interactions and dwellings.
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Kaplan, Asa Miles, "A Repulsive Inquiry: Evaluating the impact of cognitive load on aversive gaze behaviors following exposure to disgusting and fearful stimuli" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 153.
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