In search of the emotional face: anger or happiness preference and the effect of face inversion in visual search

Young, Ruth A. (2015). In search of the emotional face: anger or happiness preference and the effect of face inversion in visual search PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.1034

Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Thesis_amendment2.pdf Amendment application/pdf 12.93KB 0
s41721586_PhD_Sumission.pdf Thesis (open access) application/pdf 10.00MB 0

Author Young, Ruth A.
Thesis Title In search of the emotional face: anger or happiness preference and the effect of face inversion in visual search
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.1034
Publication date 2015-11-06
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Stefanie Becker
Ottmar Lipp
Total pages 160
Total colour pages 9
Total black and white pages 151
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Formatted abstract
The investigation of preferential processing of different emotional expressions using visual search has thus far produced many mixed findings. Reports range from evidence of detection advantages for angry expressions to detection advantages for happy expressions. Similarly, current literature is unclear regarding the effect of face inversion on search for emotional expressions, with some studies reporting that inversion attenuates preferential detection of angry or happy expressions, whereas others report no effect of inversion. This thesis investigates these inconsistencies in reports of anger and happiness superiority effects and the influence of face inversion on preferential detection of emotional expressions.

Previous research has shown that anger and happiness superiority effects can be elicited using faces drawn from different databases, however, inconsistent patterns are also reported in studies using faces from the same database. Chapter 2, the first of three empirical chapters, addressed the inconsistencies between reports of anger and happiness superiority using subsets of faces drawn from a single database. Differing procedures and stimulus differences, such as poser sex and the use of colour or greyscale images, were eliminated as explanations for prior inconsistent findings. Detection advantages for both anger and happiness emerged depending on which subset of faces was used. The influence of stimulus set on detection pattern highlights the critical role of stimulus selection in visual search for emotional expressions.

Chapter 3 investigated holistic processing of emotional expressions in visual search tasks. Face inversion was used to determine whether emotional expressions are processed holistically or featurally. Consistent with previous literature, happiness or anger superiority effects were elicited depending on the database from which the face stimuli were drawn. Regardless of whether an anger or happiness advantage was evident, the detection pattern was consistent across upright and inverted faces. The lack of effect of inversion on the emotion detection pattern suggests that search for emotional expression may rely on featural rather than holistic processing of facial expressions of emotion. Chapter 4 aimed to further elucidate the role featural processing in visual search for emotional expressions by examining the effect of inversion on the distribution of fixations on eye and mouth-regions during visual search. Participants fixated more often on the eye-region than the mouth-region when searching for angry targets, but there was no difference between eye and mouth-region fixations when searching for happy targets. This fixation pattern was consistent across target and non-target faces, suggesting that target specific salient perceptual features did not drive the fixation pattern. Instead, the results are better explained as reflecting an intentional search strategy employed by the participants that varied as a function of the target expression.

Across these three empirical chapters, the evidence presented in this thesis suggests that previous inconsistent reports of preferential detection of emotional expressions in visual search may result from stimulus related confounds and reliance on feature-based search strategies. The susceptibility of visual search to stimulus related confounds, whether emotion-related or emotion-unrelated, indicates that visual search paradigms may be not well suited for the investigation of preferential processing of emotional expressions.
Keyword Emotional expressions
Visual search
Face processing
Anger superiority effect
Happiness superiority effect
Face inversion
Eye movements

Document type: Thesis
Collections: UQ Theses (RHD) - Official
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
 
Versions
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Tue, 27 Oct 2015, 15:03:39 EST by Miss Ruth Savage on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service