August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Processing emotion across the senses: hearing negative emotional content weakens the perceptual and physiological response to seeing a happy face
Author Affiliations
  • Vivian Ciaramitaro
    Department of Psychology, Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Anh Phan
    Department of Psychology, Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Hannah Lapp
    Department of Psychology, Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Richard Hunter
    Department of Psychology, Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Daniel Harris
    Department of Psychology, Developmental and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 1379. doi:10.1167/16.12.1379
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      Vivian Ciaramitaro, Anh Phan, Hannah Lapp, Richard Hunter, Daniel Harris; Processing emotion across the senses: hearing negative emotional content weakens the perceptual and physiological response to seeing a happy face. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1379. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1379.

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      © 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

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Abstract

Faces convey a wealth of information, cueing us to features such as the gender, identity or emotional status of individuals, and providing crucial signals for navigating social interactions. We examined the extent to which emotionally charged voices alter the emotion seen in a face and the corresponding physiological stress response. We used face adaptation to quantify perceptual shifts when seen and heard emotions were congruent (angry faces and angry voices or happy faces and happy voices) versus incongruent (angry faces and happy voices or happy faces and angry voices). We hypothesized adapting to congruent visual and auditory emotions would yield stronger perceptual shifts compared to incongruent emotions. For each of 40 participants (students from the University of Massachusetts Boston, ages 18-27) we quantified (1) the neutral point, pre- and post-adaptation, by fitting data with a cumulative normal to determine where faces were equally likely to be judged happy or angry, and (2) the physiological stress response, pre- and post-adaptation, by measuring salivary cortisol during testing. We found that adaptation effects were stronger for happy compared to angry faces and for congruent versus incongruent emotions within each category. Furthermore, the cortisol stress response showed complementary changes, with stronger effects, greater decreases in cortisol, after adaptation to happy compared to angry faces, and with physiological trends mirroring behavioral trends for congruent versus incongruent conditions. These normative measures are first steps towards assessing how such mechanisms may malfunction in social anxiety, extending current evidence from our lab suggesting basic mechanisms of visual adaptation to the emotional content of a face are altered in social anxiety (Ciaramitaro et al, in preparation).

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016

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