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Bettina Olk, Andrea M. Garay-Vado; Attention to faces: Effects of face inversion. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/10.7.125.
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Goal-directed behavior requires focusing on important target stimuli and the prevention of attention to irrelevant distracters. According to the load theory of attention (Lavie, 1995, 2000), a factor that modulates whether distracters are attended to is the perceptual load of the relevant task. Following the theory, perception of distracters can be prevented when perceptual load is high. Lavie, Ro, and Russell (2003) showed that face distracters are an exception as they attract attention and are hard to ignore even under high load. Further research suggests that a face advantage may be linked to the upright presentation of faces, however, there is conflicting evidence regarding the role of the orientation of a face and a potential face advantage. We thus investigated the link between face orientation, perceptual load and attention in three experiments using a sex classification task. Experiment 1 tested whether upright and inverted distracter faces attract attention reflexively under low and under high perceptual load conditions to a comparable degree in a flanker paradigm and showed that upright but not inverted faces attracted attention, suggesting that inverted faces were easier to ignore. Experiment 2 proved that inverted distracter faces can lead to congruency effects though, provided that attention is directed volitionally to the peripheral distracters. Experiment 3 showed, using a cuing paradigm, that although participants are slower to discriminate inverted faces, the allocation of attention facilitates face processing and sex discrimination for upright and inverted faces to a similar extent. Our findings suggest a link between mechanisms of face processing and their attention capturing power.
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