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Emotion. 2003 Dec;3(4):327-43.

Modulation of focused attention by faces expressing emotion: evidence from flanker tasks.

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School of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor, Bangor, United Kingdom.


Three experiments evaluated whether facial expression can modulate the allocation of focused attention. Identification of emotionally expressive target faces was typically faster when they were flanked by identical (compatible) faces compared with when they were flanked by different (incompatible) faces. This flanker compatibility effect was significantly smaller when target faces expressed negative compared with positive emotion (see Experiment 1A); however, when the faces were altered to disrupt emotional expression, yet retain feature differences, equal flanker compatibility effects were observed (see Experiment 1B). The flanker-compatibility effect was also found to be smaller for negative target faces compared compatibility with neutral target faces, and for both negative and neutral target faces compared with positive target faces (see Experiment 2). These results suggest that the constriction of attention is influenced by facial expressions of emotion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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