August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Crowd emotion perception is lateralized in a goal-driven fashion and modulated by observer anxiety and stimulus characteristics: behavioral and fMRI results
Author Affiliations
  • Hee Yeon Im
    Department of Radiology, Harvard Medical School / Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Daniel Albohn
    Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Troy Steiner
    Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Reginald Adams
    Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Kestutis Kveraga
    Department of Radiology, Harvard Medical School / Massachusetts General Hospital
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 1376. doi:10.1167/16.12.1376
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      Hee Yeon Im, Daniel Albohn, Troy Steiner, Reginald Adams, Kestutis Kveraga; Crowd emotion perception is lateralized in a goal-driven fashion and modulated by observer anxiety and stimulus characteristics: behavioral and fMRI results. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1376. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1376.

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      © 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

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Abstract

The emotional tone of a crowd of faces (e.g., whether friendly or threatening) guides our interactions with groups of people. However, little is known about the behavioral and neural bases of these socially important influences. Here we examined in 5 experiments how intrinsic factors, such as observers' goal (to avoid or approach) and anxiety level, and extrinsic factors, such as whether the faces were male or female and where they were presented spatially, affect crowd emotion perception and their underlying neural responses. Participants viewed two crowds of emotional faces in the left and right visual fields for 1 second (Fig.S1) and reported which crowd they would avoid (Exp.1-2) or approach (Exp.3-4). In Exp.5, a new cohort (N=24) was scanned with fMRI while they performed the avoidance task. Although it is thought that right hemisphere (RH) dominates perception of negative stimuli, and left hemisphere (LH) is dominant for positive stimuli, we found significant RH dominance for both angrier and happier crowds depending on task goal, avoidance and approach, respectively (Fig.S2). This finding suggests that RH dominates processing of task-congruent crowd emotion, irrespective of its valence. High-anxiety participants showed faster RTs overall and lower accuracy for happier, but not angrier, crowds. While the observers' sex had no effect, we found that crowds of happy females and angry males were perceived more accurately. Finally, fMRI results revealed greater RH activation while perceiving task-congruent, angry crowd during the avoidance task, with higher activation in the ROI's including amygdala, hippocampus, and face-sensitive cortex, compared with the corresponding regions in LH. When a happier crowd, incongruent for the avoidance task, was presented to RH, we found higher activation in the corpus callosum suggesting increased inter-hemispheric communication. In conclusion, perception of crowd emotion is substantially RH-lateralized and strongly modulated by task, stimulus characteristics, and observer anxiety.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016

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