Motivation and emotional distraction interact and affect executive functions

Kin Chung Michael YEUNG, Jaden Cheuk-Hei WAN, Michelle Mei-Ka CHAN, Sam Ho-Yu CHEUNG, Steven Chun-Yui SZE, Winnie Wing-Yi SIU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Previous research on cool-hot executive function (EF) interactions has examined the effects of motivation and emotional distraction on cool EF separately, focusing on one EF component at a time. Although both incentives and emotional distractors have been shown to modulate attention, how they interact and affect cool EF processes is still unclear. Here, we used an experimental paradigm that manipulated updating, inhibition, and shifting demands to determine the interactions of motivation and emotional distraction in the context of cool EF. Forty-five young adults (16 males, 29 females) completed the go/no-go (inhibition), two-back (updating), and task-switching (shifting) tasks. Monetary incentives were implemented to manipulate motivation, and task-irrelevant threatening or neutral faces were presented before the target stimulus to manipulate emotional distraction. We found that incentives significantly improved no-go accuracy, two-back accuracy, and reaction time (RT) switch cost. While emotional distractors had no significant effects on overall task performance, they abolished the incentive effects on no-go accuracy and RT switch cost. Altogether, these findings suggest that motivation and emotional distraction interact in the context of cool EF. Specifically, transient emotional distraction disrupts the upregulation of control activated by incentives. The present investigation has advanced knowledge about the relationship between cool and hot EF and highlights the importance of considering motivation–emotion interactions for a fuller understanding of control. Copyright © 2024 The Author(s).

Original languageEnglish
Article number188
JournalBMC Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024


Yeung, M. K., Wan, J. C.-H., Chan, M. M.-K., Cheung, S. H.-Y., Sze, S. C.-Y., & Siu, W. W.-Y. (2024). Motivation and emotional distraction interact and affect executive functions. BMC Psychology, 12, Article 188.


  • Executive function
  • Emotion
  • Motivation
  • Shifting
  • Inhibition
  • Updating


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