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

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).


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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

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1037/a0031403
ISSNs: 1528-3542 (print)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Organisations: Psychology
ePrint ID: 347559
Date :
Date Event
11 February 2013e-pub ahead of print
June 2013Published
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2013 14:00
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 16:09
Further Information:Google Scholar
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/347559

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