Happy and fearful emotion in cues and targets modulate event-related potential indices of gaze-directed attentional orienting.
The goal of the present study was to characterize the effects of valence in facial cues and object targets on event-related potential (ERPs) indices of gaze-directed orienting. Participants were shown faces at fixation that concurrently displayed dynamic gaze shifts and expression changes from neutral to fearful or happy emotions. Emotionally-salient target objects subsequently appeared in the periphery and were spatially congruent or incongruent with the gaze direction. ERPs were time-locked to target presentation. Three sequential ERP components were modulated by happy emotion, indicating a progression from an expression effect to a gaze-by-expression interaction to a target emotion effect. These effects included larger P1 amplitude over contralateral occipital sites for targets following happy faces, larger centrally distributed N1 amplitude for targets following happy faces with leftward gaze, and faster P3 latency for positive targets. In addition, parietally distributed P3 amplitude was reduced for validly cued targets following fearful expressions. Results are consistent with accounts of attentional broadening and motivational approach by happy emotion, and facilitation of spatially directed attention in the presence of fearful cues. The findings have implications for understanding how socioemotional signals in faces interact with each other and with emotional features of objects in the environment to alter attentional processes.
Fichtenholtz, HM; Hopfinger, JB; Graham, R; Detwiler, JM; LaBar, KS
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