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Cogn Emot. 2011 Feb;25(2):334-41. doi: 10.1080/02699931003794557.

The world smiles at me: self-referential positivity bias when interpreting direction of attention.

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University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, UK.


Recent research suggests that eye-gaze direction modulates perceived emotional expression. Here we explore the extent to which emotion affects interpretation of attention direction. We captured three-dimensional face models of 8 actors expressing happy, fearful, angry and neutral emotions. From these 3D models 9 views were extracted (0°, 2°, 4°, 6°, 8° to the left and right). These stimuli were randomly presented for 150 ms. Using a forced-choice paradigm 28 participants judged for each face whether or not it was attending to them. Two conditions were tested: either the whole face was visible, or the eyes were covered. In both conditions happy faces elicited most "attending-to-me" answers. Thus, emotional expression has a more general effect than an influence on gaze direction: emotion affects interpretation of attention direction. We interpret these results as a self-referential positivity bias, suggesting a general preference to associate a happy face with the self.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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