Event-related potentials reveal temporal staging of dynamic facial expression and gaze shift effects on attentional orienting.
Multiple sources of information from the face guide attention during social interaction. The present study modified the Posner cueing paradigm to investigate how dynamic changes in emotional expression and eye gaze in faces affect the neural processing of subsequent target stimuli. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants viewed centrally presented face displays in which gaze direction (left, direct, right) and facial expression (fearful, neutral) covaried in a fully crossed design. Gaze direction was not predictive of peripheral target location. ERP analysis revealed several sequential effects, including: (1) an early enhancement of target processing following fearful faces (P1); (2) an interaction between expression and gaze (N1), with enhanced target processing following fearful faces with rightward gaze; and (3) an interaction between gaze and target location (P3), with enhanced processing for invalidly cued left visual field targets. Behaviorally, participants responded faster to targets following fearful faces and targets presented in the right visual field, in concordance with the P1 and N1 effects, respectively. The findings indicate that two nonverbal social cues-facial expression and gaze direction-modulate attentional orienting across different temporal stages of processing. Results have implications for understanding the mental chronometry of shared attention and social referencing.
Fichtenholtz, HM; Hopfinger, JB; Graham, R; Detwiler, JM; LaBar, KS
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