Angry Facial Expressions Hamper Subsequent Target Identification

  • de Jong P
  • Koster E
  • van Wees R
 et al. 
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There is considerable evidence indicating that people are primed to monitor social signals of disapproval. Thus far, studies on selective attention have concentrated predominantly on the spatial domain, whereas the temporal consequences of identifying socially threatening information have received only scant attention. Therefore, this study focused on temporal attention costs and examined how the presentation of emotional expressions affects subsequent identification of task-relevant information. High (n = 30) and low (n = 31) socially anxious women were exposed to a dual-target rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) paradigm. Emotional faces (neutral, happy, angry) were presented as the first target (T1) and neutral letter stimuli (p, q, d, b) as the second target (T2). Irrespective of social anxiety, the attentional blink was relatively large when angry faces were presented as T1. This apparent prioritized processing of angry faces is consistent with evolutionary models, stressing the importance of being especially attentive to potential signals of social threat.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Attentional bias
  • Attentional blink
  • Facial expressions
  • Social phobia
  • Temporal attention

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