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Regard Booy, Thomas Spalek; Controling for Perceptual Differences in the Faces Flanker Task. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):324. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.324.
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It has been suggested that negative stimuli capture attention more readily, and hold attention for longer than positive or neutral stimuli. Results consistent with this interpretation have, been found using a modified version of the Eriksen flanker task using schematic representations of emotional faces as the stimuli. Specifically, reaction times to happy faces are delayed when sad faces are presented as flankers (incongruent condition) relative to when happy faces are used as flankers (congruent condition). But this incongruent/congruent difference is not observed when the target is a sad face. It has been suggested that this effect may not be due to the valence of the stimuli and instead represent the ease of feature processing. For example, the mouth may be easier to process in a happy face than in a sad face because the contours of the lower part of the face and a happy mouth are roughly parallel. To test this hypothesis, 88 undergraduate students completed a Flanker task using schematic faces without the encompassing circle (i.e., just the eyes and mouth) as stimuli. A central target with three flankers on either side were presented in a horizontal line in the centre of the screen. As expected, a congruency effect was observed for happy faces. However, contrary to previous findings, a congruency effect was also observed for sad faces. If previous results were due to low level perceptual difference between schematic faces alone, no differences should be observed between happy and sad targets in the present study. Instead, the congruency effect was larger for happy than for sad faces. This is consistent with research suggesting negative stimuli capture attention more readily than positive stimuli, and further suggests that emotional information conveyed by the stimulus impacted responses.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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