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Julia Gomez-Cuerva, Margaret C. Jackson, Jane E. Raymond; Identification of expressive faces in the attentional blink. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):702. doi: 10.1167/8.6.702.
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Conventional views of face perception hold that face identity and expression are processed by independent mechanisms and therefore predict that face identification should be unaffected by expression. However, some previous reports suggest that certain facial expressions of emotion (e.g., anger) may preferentially capture attention, thus aiding identification. To examine whether attention is allocated differently for different expressions and to determine whether this can aid person identification, we presented emotional faces in a sequential dual task (a skeletal attentional blink, AB, paradigm) comprised of two targets, each followed by a mask. T1 was an abstract pattern composed either of many squares or many circles; its mask was another abstract pattern. T2 was a face image of one of three different individuals; its mask was another similar neutral greyscale face. The first task was to report T1's texture (circles or squares) and the second task was to identify the T2 face. All stimuli were 85 ms in duration but the interval between the onset of T1 and T2 was varied so as to present T2 during and after the AB. On different trials, T2 had different emotional expressions (happy, angry, or fearful); expression was uninformative as to T2 identity and was carefully matched in intensity across emotions and identities. AB effects were evident regardless of the emotional expression of the T2 face, suggesting that none of the expressions tested “captured” attention. Although identification performance for short SOAs (in the AB) were unaffected by expression, faces with happy expressions were identified with significantly greater accuracy than faces expressing anger or fear for the long SOA conditions (after the AB). These findings suggest that expression can influence face identification when attention is available; however, when it is unavailable, expression information does not interact with face identification processes.
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