In search of the emotional face: anger versus happiness superiority in visual search

Savage, Ruth A., Lipp, Ottmar V., Craig, Belinda M., Becker, Stefanie I. and Horstmann, Gernot (2013) In search of the emotional face: anger versus happiness superiority in visual search. Emotion, 13 4: 758-768. doi:10.1037/a0031970

Author Savage, Ruth A.
Lipp, Ottmar V.
Craig, Belinda M.
Becker, Stefanie I.
Horstmann, Gernot
Title In search of the emotional face: anger versus happiness superiority in visual search
Journal name Emotion   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1528-3542
Publication date 2013-08-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1037/a0031970
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 13
Issue 4
Start page 758
End page 768
Total pages 11
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher American Psychological Association
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Previous research has provided inconsistent results regarding visual search for emotional faces, yielding evidence for either anger superiority (i.e., more efficient search for angry faces) or happiness superiority effects (i.e., more efficient search for happy faces), suggesting that these results do not reflect on emotional expression, but on emotion (un-)related low-level perceptual features. The present study investigated possible factors mediating anger/happiness superiority effects; specifically search strategy (fixed vs. variable target search; Experiment 1), stimulus choice (Nimstim database vs. Ekman & Friesen database; Experiments 1 and 2), and emotional intensity (Experiment 3 and 3a). Angry faces were found faster than happy faces regardless of search strategy using faces from the Nimstim database (Experiment 1). By contrast, a happiness superiority effect was evident in Experiment 2 when using faces from the Ekman and Friesen database. Experiment 3 employed angry, happy, and exuberant expressions (Nimstim database) and yielded anger and happiness superiority effects, respectively, highlighting the importance of the choice of stimulus materials. Ratings of the stimulus materials collected in Experiment 3a indicate that differences in perceived emotional intensity, pleasantness, or arousal do not account for differences in search efficiency. Across three studies, the current investigation indicates that prior reports of anger or happiness superiority effects in visual search are likely to reflect on low-level visual features associated with the stimulus materials used, rather than on emotion.
Keyword Face in the crowd effect
Facial expressions of emotion
Anger superiority
Happiness superiority
Visual search
Facial expressions
Confounded face
Schematic faces
Happy faces
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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