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Greg West, Jay Pratt; Faces show no prior entry effects. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):440. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/7.9.440.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual prior entry effects, as measured by temporal order judgments (TOJs), are a sensitive measure of attentional capture. In the present study, we investigated if face stimuli tend to capture attention more effectively than non-face stimuli. To do so, we used a novel TOJ paradigm in which participants were presented with pairs of stimuli on either side of fixation cross arriving at different SOAs (12ms – 132ms) without any preceding cue. The task was to simply indicate which stimulus item had the first onset. If faces do show enhanced prior entry compared to non-face stimuli, then greater accuracy for face stimuli should be observed at short SOAs. First, we compared an innocuous abstract object against a neutral schematic face and, somewhat surprisingly, found the abstract object had a greater prior entry effect at SOAs of 12 and 24 ms. To further investigate this finding, a second experiment contrasted a schematic neutral face and a schematic mad face as earlier research indicates that attention is biased towards emotional faces compared to non-emotional faces. Here no significant difference at any SOA was found, with performance remaining at chance for shorter SOA. A third experiment that masked both stimulus items 100 ms after the second stimulus onset once again contrasted a mad face with an inverted neutral face, again revealing no prior entry effects for the mad face stimulus. A final experiment varied the spatial location of the stimulus onsets confirming the abstract object's ability to show visual prior entry over the face stimulus. These findings suggest that attention is not reflexively biased towards the detection of faces.
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