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Jay Pratt, Greg West, Tim Welsh, Adam Anderson; Emotion affects oculomotor action. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):369. doi: 10.1167/9.8.369.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Many theories of emotional processing posit that the automatic detection of threat in the visual environment is only an adaptive function if this affects subsequently performed actions. Interestingly, little evidence of this relationship between emotional perception and action exists. To shed some light on this relationship, the present study investigated the relationship between emotional encoding and oculomotor programming in saccadic eye movements. Specifically, the effectiveness of the motor programming of saccades was examined after the presentation of either a facial display of fear or its neutral counterpart. Our hypothesis was that the fearful face would cause attention to shift into the periphery such that a subsequent target would be encoded more efficiently, which in turn would allow for more effective motor programming (and thus require less on-line control). To determine the effectiveness of motor programming, we measured the spatial position of the eye at specific kinematic markers (KM) during each saccade (peak acceleration, peak velocity, peak deceleration). Levels of explained variance (R2) between eye position at each KM and saccade end point were computed for each trial, with higher levels of R2 being indicative of more effective motor programming. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found that saccades did have higher R2 values following the presentation of a fearful face, indicating that such saccades used more effective motor programs than did saccades that followed the neutral faces. Results are discussed in terms of heightened perceptual vigilance in relation to oculomotor program generation.
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