August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Anger superiority effect with lines primed as faces
Author Affiliations
  • Nicolas Burra
    Université de Genève, Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l'Education
  • Dirk Kerzel
    Université de Genève, Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l'Education
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 164. doi:10.1167/16.12.164
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      Nicolas Burra, Dirk Kerzel; Anger superiority effect with lines primed as faces. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):164. doi: 10.1167/16.12.164.

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      © 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

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Abstract

In visual search tasks, angry faces are detected faster than happy faces, a phenomenon known as the anger superiority effect. However, face-like stimuli result in a comparable effect. Lines pointing inward share the orientation of the eyebrows and mouth of angry faces, and radial lines share the orientation of the features of happy faces. Interestingly, the same lines without face contour do not produce an advantage of inward lines. Because inward lines (angry-like) are detected faster than radial lines (happy-like) when surrounded by a contour, it was suggested that low-level perceptual confounds explain the anger superiority effect. Alternatively, a contour might provide a face context, predisposing observers to perceive the lines as faces. We primed observers to perceive inward and radial lines without contour as faces to create an anger superiority effect. One group performed a visual search task with schematic facial expressions (face priming) while the other performed a visual search task with shapes (no priming). Before and after the priming, we measured the anger superiority effect in both groups by asking observers to detect either inward or radial lines among horizontal lines. No contour was shown. Finally, participants were asked to label and rate the pleasantness of inward and radial lines. In the face context group, we found that observers were more inclined to label the stimuli as faces and they rated the inward (angry-like) stimuli as less pleasant than participants in the shape context group. Critically, this group was faster to detect inward lines (angry-like) than radial lines (happy-like) after priming of faces. Inward and radial lines did not differ before the search task in both groups nor after the search task in the group with no priming. Thus, the anger superiority effect originates from the better detection of threatening stimuli and not from low-level confounds.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016

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