Is it in the eyes? Dissociating the role of emotion and perceptual features of emotionally expressive faces in modulating orienting to eye gaze.

Abstract

This study investigated the role of the eye region of emotional facial expressions in modulating gaze orienting effects. Eye widening is characteristic of fearful and surprised expressions and may significantly increase the salience of perceived gaze direction. This perceptual bias rather than the emotional valence of certain expressions may drive enhanced gaze orienting effects. In a series of three experiments involving low anxiety participants, different emotional expressions were tested using a gaze-cueing paradigm. Fearful and surprised expressions enhanced the gaze orienting effect compared with happy or angry expressions. Presenting only the eye regions as cueing stimuli eliminated this effect whereas inversion globally reduced it. Both inversion and the use of eyes only attenuated the emotional valence of stimuli without affecting the perceptual salience of the eyes. The findings thus suggest that low-level stimulus features alone are not sufficient to drive gaze orienting modulations by emotion. Rather, they interact with the emotional valence of the expression that appears critical. The study supports the view that rapid processing of fearful and surprised emotional expressions can potentiate orienting to another person's averted gaze in non-anxious people.

Cite this paper

@article{Bayless2011IsII, title={Is it in the eyes? Dissociating the role of emotion and perceptual features of emotionally expressive faces in modulating orienting to eye gaze.}, author={Sarah J. Bayless and Missy Glover and Margot J. Taylor and Roxane J. Itier}, journal={Visual cognition}, year={2011}, volume={19 4}, pages={483-510} }