Testing The Mechanisms Underlying The Threat Superiority Effect Using Schematic Face-Like Stimuli: Are We Really Fooled By Lower-Level Perceptual Effects?

Daina Dickins (2010). Testing The Mechanisms Underlying The Threat Superiority Effect Using Schematic Face-Like Stimuli: Are We Really Fooled By Lower-Level Perceptual Effects? Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Daina Dickins
Thesis Title Testing The Mechanisms Underlying The Threat Superiority Effect Using Schematic Face-Like Stimuli: Are We Really Fooled By Lower-Level Perceptual Effects?
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Lipp, Ottmar V.
Total pages 80
Abstract/Summary In visual search, angry faces are often detected faster than happy faces. This is known as the threat superiority effect. This paper investigated the mechanisms underlying the threat superiority effect, using schematic face-like stimuli. Although previous literature supports an emotional mechanism, recently Coelho, Cloete and Wallis (2010) provided evidence that lower-level featural processing mediates the effect. Three experiments were conducted using a computer based search task, in which participants searched for a “different” expression/face-like stimulus (angry, scheming, sad or happy) among eight or nine identical background stimuli (neutral). The first experiment aimed to replicate Coelho et al.'s findings, with neutral rather than emotive distractors, to eliminate a potential confound. It was hypothesised that removal of this confound would eliminate threat superiority, but that adding eyes to the stimuli would result in its reoccurrence (Exp1). Unexpectedly, threat superiority emerged in both conditions. Consistent with our hypotheses, threat superiority did not occur with featural stimuli, consisting of only the eyebrows, mouth and circumference, but appeared when faces incorporated eyes and a nose (Exp2). Adding eyes to the featural stimuli yielded a threat superiority effect, but following removal of the circumference this effect was eliminated (Exp3). In sum, although there is evidence for preferential detection of some basic features this mechanism cannot explain all findings pertaining to the preferential detection of threatening faces.

 
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Created: Tue, 05 Apr 2011, 12:59:13 EST by Lucy O'Brien on behalf of School of Psychology