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Emotion. 2004 Jun;4(2):189-200.

The facilitated processing of threatening faces: an ERP analysis.

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Department of Psychology, University of of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany.


Threatening, friendly, and neutral faces were presented to test the hypothesis of the facilitated perceptual processing of threatening faces. Dense sensor event-related brain potentials were measured while subjects viewed facial stimuli. Subjects had no explicit task for emotional categorization of the faces. Assessing early perceptual stimulus processing, threatening faces elicited an early posterior negativity compared with nonthreatening neutral or friendly expressions. Moreover, at later stages of stimulus processing, facial threat also elicited augmented late positive potentials relative to the other facial expressions, indicating the more elaborate perceptual analysis of these stimuli. Taken together, these data demonstrate the facilitated perceptual processing of threatening faces. Results are discussed within the context of an evolved module of fear (A. Ohman & S. Mineka, 2001).

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