August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Are mechanisms for processing the gender and emotion of a face interdependent? Not for angry male faces.
Author Affiliations
  • Daniel Harris
    Department of Psychology, Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Vivian Ciaramitaro
    Department of Psychology, Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 165. doi:10.1167/16.12.165
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      Daniel Harris, Vivian Ciaramitaro; Are mechanisms for processing the gender and emotion of a face interdependent? Not for angry male faces.. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):165. doi: 10.1167/16.12.165.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

There is long standing interest in understanding how features of a face are represented, with behavioral and neuronal data suggesting independent as well as interdependent processing (for example, (Bestelmeyer, Jones, DeBruine, Little, & Welling, 2010; Haxby, Hoffman, Gobbini, 2000; Ng, Ciaramitaro, Anstis, Boynton, Fine, 2006). We used contingent adaptation to investigate mechanisms for processing the gender and emotion of a face. Participants (64; 18females/condition) were adapted to happy male and angry female faces (Condition1) or to angry male and happy female faces (Condition2). Adaptation consisted of 15 unique female and 15 unique male faces, happy or angry. Participants judged the emotion (angry or happy) of 4 unique male and 4 unique female faces, morphed along an emotional continuum, 80% happy to 80% angry, in a two-alternative-forced-choice design. Adaptation effects were quantified pre- and post-adaptation by fitting data with a cumulative normal to determine the point of subjective equality (PSE), the morph judged to be emotionless, supporting 50% performance. In Condition1 we found significant contingent adaptation effects; male faces were perceived angrier and female faces happier (p < .001). Interestingly, in the complementary Condition2 we found no significant contingent adaptation effects; both male and female faces were perceived angrier. Our results highlight how interdependent mechanisms may only emerge for certain feature combinations, especially for emotional information, given how maladaptive it is to stop responding to threatening information, with male angry faces being the most threatening. The role societal norms and early exposure have in creating such biases remain important avenues for future work.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016

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