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This study presents the consequences of incidental affect when performing a letter search in a complex visual field. Participants were exposed to two superficially unrelated tasks in succession. First, they had to read and remember as much as possible from among 135 emotional words chosen to enable manipulation of two affective factors, valence and origin of emotional state, in a 3x3 factorial design with alignment of other variables, such as arousal, concreteness, frequency of appearance and length. The second task was based on a visual search paradigm. Participants viewed a display of six letters and responded if at least one of two target letters was present. Analysis of reaction latencies for correct responses showed that valence of the words read in the first task had no effect on visual search effectiveness. The origin of the affective state elicited by the words in the first task did influence response latencies: latencies were longer when the first task involved reading words eliciting emotions of automatic origin rather than words eliciting emotions of reflective origin. This study provides further evidence that valence effects found in earlier studies could be accounted for by other dimensions, especially origin of emotional state.
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