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Xiaowen Zhang, Yuming Xuan, Xiaolan Fu; Approaching the good and avoiding the bad is more automatic for emotional words than for emotional faces. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):962. doi: 10.1167/12.9.962.
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To approach or to avoid is a fundamental decision each cognitive agent has to make in their daily routines. Previous studies have showed that emotional valence of stimuli is bidirectionally linked to behavioral dispositions. Positive valence facilitates approaching and negative valence facilitates avoiding, meanwhile people tend to give more positive evaluations during approaching but more negative evaluations during avoiding. However, it is still controversial whether this link is automatic and independent of evaluation. In the present study we adopt the implicit association test (IAT) to explore the possible automatic link between behavioral tendencies and emotional valences. In experiment 1, participants were required to categorize happy faces versus disgusting faces, or approaching arrows versus avoiding arrows. They were able to categorize the items faster in the compatible condition (e.g., happy faces and approaching arrows were assigned to left hand while disgusting faces and avoiding arrows were assigned to right hand) compared with the incompatible condition (e.g., happy faces and avoiding arrows were assigned to left hand while disgusting faces and approaching arrows were assigned to right hand). In experiment 2, participants were still asked to categorize approaching arrows versus avoiding arrows, but to make gender judgments (male versus female) for the same faces used in experiment 1. The irrelevant emotional expressions turned out to have no effects on categorization. In experiments 3 and 4, emotional faces were replaced by emotional words and participants were demanded to categorize the valence of the word or whether the word describe a person or an object besides the arrow categorization. In both experiments, we found a strong link between approach/avoidance and positive/negative valence of the emotional words, regardless their task relevance. It seems that emotional words convey more strong cues for us to make approach/avoid decisions than emotional facial expressions.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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