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Ashley Blanchard, Maggie Shiffrar; Does the Threat Advantage Hypothesis Extend to Static Body Postures?. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):108. doi: 10.1167/11.11.108.
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The Threat Advantage Hypothesis posits that observers preferentially attend threats. Evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from point-light walker detection studies in which observers are best able to detect the presence of angry point-light walkers in a mask (e.g., Chouchourelou et al., 2006). Support also comes from numerous visual search studies in which the detection of angry and fearful faces is superior to the detection of other affective faces (e.g, Ohman et al., 2001). However, visual search studies with faces are far from uniform in their support of the threat advantage hypothesis (e.g., Horstmann, 2009). If static facial expressions, per se, present a particular challenge to the threat advantage hypothesis, then other stimuli may yield clearer evidence. To that end, a series of detection studies was performed with static, affective body postures. Computer-generated static emotional body postures were created. To validate and norm the stimuli, 17 na&ıuml;ve observers sequentially viewed each stimulus and reported with a button press which of 4 emotions was depicted. Then, a visual search task using the normed postures (angry, fearful, sad, neutral) was conducted. In each display, six affective body postures were positioned around a 25.0 DVA circle centered on fixation. 20 new na&ıuml;ve observers reported whether an oddball posture was present. Oddball detection was not selectively speeded for threat relevant postures. In a second study, 23 new observers viewed these stimuli and reported whether a specific affective posture was present. Again, the detection of threat relevant postures was not speeded. Subsequent studies using different methodologies (e.g., dot probe) have yet to identify speeded detection of threatening postures. These and other results suggest that the threat advantage hypothesis is not uniformly supported by static cues to threat, whether facial or bodily. Instead, movement may be a more powerful cue to threat.
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