Attentional and Psychophysiological Correlates of Future Time Perspective Manipulation: An Eye-Tracking Study
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Socioemotional Selectivity Theory posits that as person progresses through the life cycle, he or she makes concerted steps to maximize social and emotional wellbeing through selective patterns of emotional processing (Carstensen, 1995). The temporal positioning of an individual’s goals, motivations, and social orientations, or future time perspective (FTP), drives this change in emotional processing. The association between FTP and age is a naturally-occurring phenomenon as FTP becomes more limited as a person ages; however, it is believed that the construct of future time perspective is sufficiently malleable to be experimentally manipulated (Carstensen, 2003). The current study assessed the effects of a future time perspective manipulation on the emotional processing of positively and negatively valenced IAPS images in a college sample. Emotional processing was indexed by heart rate variability (HRV), skin conductance, memory recall, and eye-tracking. Young adult volunteers (N=22) were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions, wherein their future time perspective was manipulated to become either more limited or more expansive. Participants viewed a series of positive and negative cues followed by corresponding valenced images before and after the future time perspective manipulation. Preliminary results of the current study suggest the imagery task had no significant effect on FTP. Due to limitations from the small sample size, a larger sample size will be needed to conduct valid group comparisons to sufficiently test the effectiveness of the manipulation. Results of this study show participants with a more limited FTP had lower LF and greater HF HRV, indicating greater emotional regulation of arousal during the task. Interestingly, our results also indicate that positive affect ratings on the PANAS were related to avoiding negative emotional content (lower fixation percentage for negative images and cues), remembering more positive information (greater positive memory recall), detecting a greater saliency for positive information (longer skin conductance rec t/2), lower sympathetic activity (lower posttest LF and SCL) and greater parasympathetic activity (greater posttest HF and RMSSD). These data suggest that reports of affect might provide more sensitive indication of emotional processing than future time perspective.