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Helena J. V. Rutherford, Brian A. Goolsby, Jane E. Raymond, Raymond M. Klein; Spatial attentional cuing effects on emotional evaluation of faces. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):391. doi: 10.1167/5.8.391.
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Faces seen as distractors in visual search arrays are subsequently rated as less trustworthy than faces previously seen as search targets (Raymond, et al., 2004, VSS). Similarly, task-irrelevant faces associated with no-go cues in a simple reaction time task are seen as less trustworthy than faces not so associated (Fenske, et al. 2003, VSS). A possible mechanism for this attentional control over emotional evaluation may be a persistent effect of attentional inhibition. Here we ask whether brief spatial cues presented to the left or right of a fixation spot just prior to the presentation of a target face (presented to the left or right) would modulate the social-emotional evaluation of the face. After viewing a simple cue, participants categorized the gender of the face as quickly as possible and then rated the face for its trustworthiness. The stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between cue and target face was varied; cues were presented at a location that was the same as (valid) or opposite to (invalid) that of the target. For faces presented on the left, gender categorisation response times (RT) were faster with valid v. invalid cues for all SOAs. For faces seen on the right, this cuing benefit was only seen for short SOAs. For long SOAs, RT was faster with invalid cues, indicating inhibition of return (IOR). Trustworthy ratings of faces presented on the left were unaffected by cues for any SOA. Similarly, for faces presented on the right, cues had no effect on ratings for short SOAs. However, for long SOAs (producing IOR), validly cued faces were rated as significantly less trustworthy than invalidly cued faces. These results indicate that the inhibitory processes underlying IOR have consequences for the social-emotional evaluation of stimuli and are therefore consistent with previous accounts that persistent attentional inhibition can modulate affective responses. These data also suggest that attentional facilitation has no impact on affective appraisal.
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