Facial emotions guide attention to task-irrelevant color cues

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract

Abstract

In what ways does emotion guide attention and affect perception? Do the associations people make between feelings and colors influence what they attend to and remember? We hypothesized that holding emotional faces (angry, happy, or neutral) in working memory (WM) would enhance attention to and memory for novel shapes presented in emotionally congruent, task-irrelevant colors. For example, we predicted better memory for red than green shapes after people were primed by an angry face. In Experiment 1, participants maintained in WM the identity and expression of a face presented for 500ms, during concurrent encoding of a 2500ms array of six shapes (three red & three green). Participants then indicated whether a subsequent achromatic shape had been present in the array, irrespective of its color. Experiment 1 initially seemed to suggest that the emotion of the face held in WM did not guide attention to congruently colored shapes. However, a post-hoc analysis revealed that those who reported mimicking the emotional expressions while attending to the shape array (rather than labeling them) exhibited the predicted WM advantage for shapes presented in the color congruent with the emotion mimicked. Experiment 2 provided confirmatory evidence: participants were randomly instructed to either mimic or label emotional face primes and, consistent with Experiment 1, mimicking (but not labeling) facial expressions resulted in a memory advantage for novel shapes in the emotion-congruent colors. These findings highlight how emotional associations can shape our attention and perception of the world around us.
Original languageEnglish
Article number312b
JournalJournal of Vision
Volume19
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
EventVision Sciences Society Annual Meeting (19th : 2019) - St. Pete Beach, United States
Duration: 17 May 201922 May 2019

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