Adaptation is fundamental in sensory processing and has been studied extensively within the same sensory modality. However, little is known about adaptation across sensory modalities, especially in the context of high-level processing, such as the perception of emotion. Previous studies have shown that prolonged exposure to a face exhibiting one emotion, such as happiness, leads to contrastive biases in the perception of subsequently presented faces toward the opposite emotion, such as sadness. Such work has shown the importance of adaptation in calibrating face perception based on prior visual exposure. In the present study, we showed for the first time that emotion-laden sounds, like laughter, adapt the visual perception of emotional faces, that is, subjects more frequently perceived faces as sad after listening to a happy sound. Furthermore, via electroencephalography recordings and event-related potential analysis, we showed that there was a neural correlate underlying the perceptual bias: There was an attenuated response occurring at ∼ 400 ms to happy test faces and a quickened response to sad test faces, after exposure to a happy sound. Our results provide the first direct evidence for a behavioral cross-modal adaptation effect on the perception of facial emotion, and its neural correlate.
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