August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Task-irrelevant Happy Faces Facilitate Visual Search Performance
Author Affiliations
  • Yoshiyuki UEDA
    Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
  • Sakiko YOSHIKAWA
    Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 10. doi:
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      Yoshiyuki UEDA, Sakiko YOSHIKAWA; Task-irrelevant Happy Faces Facilitate Visual Search Performance. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):10.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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In everyday environment, there are many objects that attract our attention and arouse our emotion. Thus, the best way to perform the present task efficiently should be to focus on the task-relevant information and ignore the irrelevant one as much as possible. But is this really so? Previous studies showed that subjective positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and promote attention reorientation (e.g. Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005). However, whether objects that arouse our positive emotion affects attentional processing remains unknown. In the current study, we investigated how task-irrelevant emotional information (i.e. faces with emotional expression) affects the performance of visual search, which requires visual attention to search for the target amongst distractors. Participants were presented four different faces with the same emotional expression (happy, angry, or neutral) 150, 400, 800, 1200, and 2000 milliseconds prior to the visual search. In the control condition, four different mosaics or the uniform gray images were presented instead of faces. Following that, faces were disappeared and a search display was presented. The search display consisted of 19 ‘L’s with various orientations and one ‘T’ which oriented left or right. The task was to report the orientation of ‘T’ as quickly and accurately as possible. Importantly, participants were explicitly instructed to ignore the faces because they were irrelevant to target locations. Reaction times for the search task significantly decreased when happy faces were presented 400 milliseconds prior to the search display rather than the control condition. However, reaction times did not decrease when faces were replaced with inverted faces or attractive food pictures. These results indicate that the visual search performance was enhanced when the task-irrelevant happy faces were presented prior to the search display. This enhancement disappeared after brief period, suggesting that appearance of task-irrelevant happy faces would modulate our attentional processing temporarily.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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