Facial expressions are critical for effective social communication, and as such may be processed by the visual system even when it might be advantageous to ignore them. Previous research has shown that categorising emotional words was impaired when faces of a conflicting valence were simultaneously presented. In the present study, we examined whether emotional word categorisation would also be impaired when faces of the same (negative) valence but different emotional category (either angry, sad or fearful) were simultaneously presented. Behavioural results provided evidence for involuntary processing of basic emotional facial expression category, with slower word categorisation when the face and word categories were incongruent (e.g., angry word and sad face) than congruent (e.g., angry word and angry face). Event-related potentials (ERPs) time-locked to the presentation of the word-face pairs also revealed that emotional category congruency effects were evident from approximately 170 ms after stimulus onset.
- Event-related potentials
- Facial expressions