June 2007
Volume 7, Issue 9
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2007
The role of ambiguity in gaze and expression interactions
Author Affiliations
  • Reiko Graham
    Department of Psychology, Texas State University
  • Teal Shalek
    Department of Psychology, Texas State University
  • Kevin LaBar
    Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University
Journal of Vision June 2007, Vol.7, 941. doi:10.1167/7.9.941
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      Reiko Graham, Teal Shalek, Kevin LaBar; The role of ambiguity in gaze and expression interactions. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):941. doi: 10.1167/7.9.941.

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Abstract

Information about changeable aspects of faces, such as gaze and emotional expression, provides us with powerful social signals that allow us to make inferences about others. In spite of this, an understanding of how gaze and expression interact is elusive. One theory (Adams & Kleck, 2003, 2005) posits that that gaze and expression are processed together such that direct gaze facilitates processing of approach-oriented emotions (e.g., anger), whereas averted gaze facilitates processing of avoidance-related emotions (e.g., fear). Another theory (Senju & Hasagawa, 2005) argues for a special role for direct gaze in expression perception. The purpose of this study was to clarify the conditions under which gaze and facial expression interact. We used a two-alternative forced choice task to examine the perception of morphed facial expressions with either direct or averted gaze. Three morph progressions were administered to healthy undergraduates: neutral to anger, neutral to fear, and fear to anger. The probability of endorsing the latter emotion in each progression was calculated for each morph increment and gaze direction, and sensitivity and reaction times across the different increments and gaze directions were determined. Results indicated that gaze direction did not affect sensitivity to facial expressions, but did modulate reaction times. Specifically, reaction times to angry faces were faster when gaze was direct. Reaction times to fearful faces were faster when gaze was averted, but only when expressions were ambiguous. This suggests that gaze direction can act as context to make expression processing more efficient, particularly under conditions of uncertainty. These results support an approach/avoidance account of gaze and expression interactions, but qualify the conditions under which these interactions occur.

Graham, R. Shalek, T. LaBar, K. (2007). The role of ambiguity in gaze and expression interactions [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 7(9):941, 941a, http://journalofvision.org/7/9/941/, doi:10.1167/7.9.941. [CrossRef]
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