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Emotion. 2008 Feb;8(1):96-103. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.8.1.96.

Affective learning increases sensitivity to graded emotional faces.

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Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


How does the affective significance of emotional faces affect perceptual decisions? We manipulated affective significance by pairing 100% fearful faces with aversive electrical stimulation and hypothesized that increasing the significance of a stimulus via its prior history would lead to enhanced processing. After fear conditioning, participants viewed graded emotional faces that ranged from neutral to fearful. Faces were shown either in a color that was previously paired with shock or a color not paired with shock during conditioning. Increases in the frequency of "fearful" responses for faces shown in the shock-paired color were most robust for faces at intermediate intensity levels (40-60% fearful). Psychometric fits to the data revealed significant increased sensitivity for shock-paired relative to unpaired faces. Thus, despite identical physical features for shock-paired and unpaired stimuli (aside from the color, which was counterbalanced), more frequent (and faster) "fearful" responses were made when participants viewed affectively significant stimuli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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