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Cogn Emot. 2011 Nov;25(7):1149-64. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2010.525861. Epub 2011 May 24.

Emotional triangles: a test of emotion-based attentional capture by simple geometric shapes.

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University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.


Previous work has proposed that simple geometric shapes, carrying the features present within negative or threatening faces are especially effective at capturing or guiding attention. Here we test this account and provide converging evidence for a threat-based attentional advantage. Experiment 1 found that downward-pointing triangles continue to be detected more efficiently than upward-pointing triangles when: (i) both overall RT and search slope measures are obtained; and (ii) when the set size is varied and the stimuli are presented in random configurations. Experiment 2 tested and ruled out an alternative account of the selection advantage, based on differences between triangle shape consistencies with scene perspective cues. Overall, the data provide converging evidence that simple geometric shapes, which might be particularly important in providing emotional signals in faces, can also attract attention preferentially even when presented outside of a face context.

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