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Chelsea M. Heveran, Mark W. Becker, Ian P. Rasmussen, Brian Detweiler-Bedell; Facial expression of emotion mediates gaze cuing. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):1057. doi: 10.1167/6.6.1057.
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Another person's gaze is an effective attentional cue. Here we investigate whether gaze cuing is mediated by the emotion expressed by the face. Logic suggests that the gaze of a fearful face should be a more effective cue to attention since it would allow one to rapidly allocate attention to potential threats. However, Hietanen & Leppänen (2003) found no evidence that gaze cuing was more effective with fearful faces and Mathews et al. (2004) found that a fearful faces gaze was more effective only for highly anxious subjects. In both experiments, a single face cue was presented in isolation, providing an unambiguous gaze cue which might have produced a ceiling effect regardless of the emotional expression. In this experiment two faces cues were flanked (500msec later) by two letters (a T and an L). Subjects hit a key which corresponded to the side of the screen which contained the T. Across trials the emotion expressed by each face varied between happy, neutral, or fearful. In addition, one face gazed toward the T(valid) and the other gazed toward the L(invalid). Given that the two faces cued conflicting directions, we were able to determine the relative cuing effectiveness of different emotional expressions. By using this method we were able to demonstrate that the gaze of a fearful face is a more effective cue to visual attention than a neutral face, and that the gaze of a neutral face was a more effective cue than the gaze of a happy face.
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