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Xiaoang Wan, Lin Tian, Alejandro Lleras; Age-related effects in previewing emotional faces in visual search. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):1152. doi: 10.1167/12.9.1152.
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Visual search for emotional faces is influenced by the valence of the faces and/or observers’ prior search experience. Here, we asked young and older adults to search for a face showing a unique emotion (emotion oddball) and to identify a second feature of the target. We investigated how previewing a display of homogeneous emotional faces affected search for the current emotion oddball, and how this inter-trial effect might change across the lifespan. For young adults, searching for a negative face among neutral faces was slower after negative faces were previewed than after neutral faces were previewed, indicating an emotional distractor previewing effect (DPE); this effect was eliminated when these faces were inverted, suggesting that the effect was not likely due to the physical features of the faces but to an evaluation of the emotional information in the displays. In contrast, older adults showed an emotional DPE in searching for negative face among neutral faces (and vice versa), regardless of whether the faces were upright or inverted. This suggests a shift in processing between young and older adults in the processing of emotional faces, with older adults performing the task based on the low level features that define emotional features, rather than on a categorization of facial emotional information as observed in young adults. The results showed that although both young and old participants are sensitive to trial history, the information that produces attentional biases across trials differs between these two populations.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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