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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2014 Jun;143(3):1199-213. doi: 10.1037/a0035177. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

The politics of the face-in-the-crowd.

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Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Department of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Recent work indicates that the more conservative one is, the faster one is to fixate on negative stimuli, whereas the less conservative one is, the faster one is to fixate on positive stimuli. The present series of experiments used the face-in-the-crowd paradigm to examine whether variability in the efficiency with which positive and negative stimuli are detected underlies such speed differences. Participants searched for a discrepant facial expression (happy or angry) amid a varying number of neutral distractors (Experiments 1 and 4). A combination of response time and eye movement analyses indicated that variability in search efficiency explained speed differences for happy expressions, whereas variability in post-selectional processes explained speed differences for angry expressions. These results appear to be emotionally mediated as search performance did not vary with political temperament when displays were inverted (Experiment 2) or when controlled processing was required for successful task performance (Experiment 3). Taken together, the present results suggest political temperament is at least partially instantiated by attentional biases for emotional material.

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