, Volume 63, Issue 6, pp 1004-1013

Differential attentional guidance by unattended faces expressing positive and negative emotion

Abstract

Four experiments were conducted to evaluate whether focal attention can be guided by an analysis of the emotional expression in a face. Participants searched displays of 7, 11, 15, and 19 schematic faces for the location of a unique face expressing either a positive or a negative emotion located among distractor faces expressing a neutral emotion. The slopes of the search functions for locating the negative face were shallower than the slopes of the search functions for locating the positive face (Experiments 1A and 2A). When the faces were inverted to reduce holistic face perception, the slopes of the search functions for locating positive and negative faces were not different (Experiments 1B and 2B). The results suggest that the emotional expression in a face can be perceived outside the focus of attention and can guide focal attention to the location of the face.

This research was supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to P.M.M.