September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
The detection of fearful and angry expressions in visual search
Author Affiliations
  • Alisdair Taylor
    Departments of Medicine (Neurology), Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Jason Barton
    Departments of Medicine (Neurology), Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Psychology, University of British Columbia
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 1354. doi:10.1167/15.12.1354
  • Views
  • Share
  • Tools
    • Alerts
      This feature is available to authenticated users only.
      Sign In or Create an Account ×
    • Get Citation

      Alisdair Taylor, Jason Barton; The detection of fearful and angry expressions in visual search. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1354. doi: 10.1167/15.12.1354.

      Download citation file:

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

  • Supplements

Background: The “anger-superiority hypothesis” states an angry facial expression is detected faster than a non-threatening facial expression when either is embedded in a crowd of neutral faces. Presumably, this occurs because an angry face signals impending direct-threat to the observer. However, it is not known whether angry facial expressions are detected more efficiently than other negative expressions that signal danger. Objective: In this study we compared search efficiency for angry and fearful expressions. Methods: Subjects completed a visual search task in which the goal was to detect either an angry or fearful facial expression amid a crowd of neutral expression distractor faces. Crowd size (small vs. large) and view (frontal vs. side) were manipulated. As an angry face signals direct-threat, but a fearful face only signals indirect threat, we expected better search efficiency for angry expressions. Furthermore, we hypothesized angry faces would be more efficiently detected in frontal-view, given that this signals a direct threat from the image to the observer, but that there would be no effect of view on fearful faces. Results: Subjects were faster and more efficient in detecting fearful than angry faces. Target interacted with crowd size: performance declined with increasing crowd size for angry targets, crowd size did not affect performance for fearful targets. We confirmed that angry targets were detected more efficiently in frontal-view, but view had no effect for fearful targets. Conclusions: Contrary to the anger-superiority hypothesis, we found even better performance for fearful faces. This may indicate paradoxically that an indirect threat, possibly shared by the subject and observer, is more salient than a direct-threat. Detection of direct threat is greatest in a view where the threat can be perceived as directed at the observer, but a similar view effect is not seen for the indirect-threat represented by fearful faces.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

Sign in or purchase a subscription to access this content. ×

You must be signed into an individual account to use this feature.