Motivated Attention & Perception: Dr Steven Most

What is this research about?

Visual cognition approaches to attention, emotion, motivation, and cognitive biases: how do they shape perception and memory, and what are their consequences for psychological and physical health?

Ongoing projects include:

1. Emotion-Driven Attentional Biases: In pursuing a deeper understanding of attention mechanisms impacted by emotion, as well as their links with clinical- and social- psychology, we aim to develop new insights into how aspects of the heart shape our perceptual reality.

2. Goal-Driven Perception: How much of what we do or don’t see is driven by our expectations and priorities?

3. Stress and Cognitive Control: Under what conditions does stress enhance or impair aspects of cognitive ability?

4. Attention and Traffic Safety: How can a better understanding of attention, distraction, and perception lead to better safety on the roadways?

Other researchers working on this project:

PhD Students: Vera Newman, Sanderson Onie, Jenna Zhao

UNSW Colleagues: Tom Beesley, Mike Le Pelley, Belinda Liddell, Vinayak Dixit

Colleagues elsewhere: Tom Carlson (U. Sydney), Kim Curby (Macquarie), Briana Kennedy (U. Southern California), Árni Kristjánsson (U. Iceland), Mike Regan (ARRB), Brad Wyble (Penn State)

Recent publications relating to this research: 

Most, S.B. (in press). Beyond perceptual judgment: Categorization and emotion shape what we see. [Commentary] Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

*Kennedy, B.L. & Most, S.B. (2015). The rapid perceptual impact of emotional distractors. PLoS ONE, 10(6): e0129320. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129320

*Kennedy, B.L. & Most, S.B. (2015). Affective stimuli capture attention regardless of categorical distinctiveness: An emotion-induced blindness study. Visual Cognition, 23, 105-117.

Pearson, D., Donkin, C., Tran, S.C., Most, S.B., & Le Pelley, M.E. (2015). Cognitive control and counterproductive oculomotor capture by reward-related stimuli. Visual Cognition, 23, 41-66.

*Kennedy, B.L., Rawding, J., Most, S.B., & Hoffman, J.E. (2014). Emotion-induced blindness reflects competition for early and late processing stages: An ERP study. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 14, 1485-1498.

Most, S.B. (2014). The regulation of vision: How motivation and emotion shape what we see. In J. P. Forgas & E. Harmon-Jones (Eds.), Motivation and Its Regulation: The Control Within (pp. 153-168). New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.

Most, S.B. (2013). Setting sights higher: Category-level attentional set modulates sustained inattentional blindness. Psychological Research, 77, 139-146.

*Skoranski, A., Most, S.B., Simons, R.F., Hoffman, J.E., & Hassink, S. (2013). Response monitoring and cognitive control in childhood obesity. Biological Psychology, 92, 199-204.

Kristjánsson, Á., Óladóttir, B., & Most, S.B. (2013). “Hot” Facilitation of “Cool” Processing: Emotional Distraction Can Enhance Priming of Visual Search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 39, 298-306.

*Wang, L, *Kennedy, B.L., & Most, S.B. (2012, November 7). When emotion blinds: A spatiotemporal competition account of emotion-induced blindness. Invited contribution to Frontiers in Psychology: Special Topic on Emotion and Cognition. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00438

*Kennedy, B.L. & Most, S.B. (2012). Perceptual, not memorial, disruption underlies emotion-induced blindness. Emotion, 12, 199-202.

Bredemeier, K., Berenbaum, H., Brockmole, J.R., Boot, W.R., Simons, D.J., & Most, S.B. (2012). A load on my mind: Evidence that depression is like multi-tasking. Acta Psychologica, 139, 137-145.

Most, S.B. & *Wang, L. (2011). Dissociating spatial attention and awareness in emotion-induced blindness. Psychological Science, 22, 300-305.

Bredemeier, K., Berenbaum, H., Most, S.B., & Simons, D.J. (2011). Links between neuroticism, emotional distress, and disengaging attention: Evidence from a single-target RSVP task. Cognition & Emotion, 25, 1510-1519.

Piech, R.M., McHugo, M., Smith, S.D., Dukic, M. S., Van Der Meer, J., Abou-Khalil, B., Most, S.B., & Zald, D.H., (2011). Attentional capture by emotional stimuli is preserved in patients with amygdala lesions. Neuropsychologia, 49, 2214- 3319.

Most, S.B. (2010). What’s “inattentional” about inattentional blindness? Consciousness & Cognition, 19, 1102-1104.

Most, S.B. & Laurenceau, J.-P., Graber, E., Belcher, A., & Smith, C.V. (2010). Blind jealousy: Romantic insecurity increases emotion-induced failures of visual perception. Emotion, 10, 250-256.

* = supervise (student or lab staff)

Grants awarded:

ARC Discovery DP170101715, “Capture and control: Overcoming distraction by reward-related stimuli”. 2017-2019. Chief Investigators: Le Pelley & Most.

ARC Linkage LP160101021, “Understanding impact of autonomous vehicles on behavior and interactions”. 2016-2019 (AU $458,000). Chief Investigators: Dixit, Waller, Bliemer, Most, & Rakotonirainy.

ARC Future Fellowship FT120100707. “How emotion shapes perception: Delineating structural, temporal, and representational properties of emotion-induced blindness”. 2012- 2016. ($703,000 direct costs). Chief Investigator: Most.

In the media:

Most, S.B. (2014). Adverts on the road could be a distraction for drivers. The Conversation. (link:


Motivated Attention and Perception Lab