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Faces and awareness: low-level, not emotional factors determine perceptual dominance

Record type: Article

Threat-relevant stimuli such as fear faces are prioritized by the human visual system. Recent research suggests that this prioritization begins during unconscious processing: a specialized (possibly subcortical) pathway evaluates the threat relevance of visual input, resulting in preferential access to awareness for threat stimuli. Our data challenge this claim. We used a continuous flash suppression (CFS) paradigm to present emotional face stimuli outside of awareness. It has been shown using CFS that salient (e.g., high contrast) and recognizable stimuli (faces, words) become visible more quickly than less salient or less recognizable stimuli. We found that although fearful faces emerge from suppression faster than other faces, this was wholly explained by their low-level visual properties, rather than their emotional content. We conclude that, in the competition for visual awareness, the visual system prefers and promotes unconscious stimuli that are more “face-like,” but the emotional content of a face has no effect on stimulus salience

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Citation

Gray, Katie L.H., Adams, Wendy J., Hedger, Nicholas, Newton, Kristiana E. and Garner, Matthew (2013) Faces and awareness: low-level, not emotional factors determine perceptual dominance Emotion, 13, (3), pp. 537-544. (doi:10.1037/a0031403). (PMID:23398580).

More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 11 February 2013
Published date: June 2013
Organisations: Psychology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 347559
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/347559
ISSN: 1528-3542
PURE UUID: 90195ecc-0d8a-449f-aca3-c52866a7991e
ORCID for Wendy J. Adams: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5832-1056

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 24 Jan 2013 14:00
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 04:57

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Contributors

Author: Katie L.H. Gray
Author: Wendy J. Adams ORCID iD
Author: Nicholas Hedger
Author: Kristiana E. Newton
Author: Matthew Garner

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