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The effect of inducing panic search on the detection of fear-relevant and neutral images

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Panic search occurs when the presentation of a fearful facial expression precue, prior to a search display, improves target detection relative to when neutral and positive expressions are used. In the present study, fearful and neutral expressions acted as precues and targets were images of either neutral or threatening animals. It was predicted that detection of a threatening image following a fearful precue would be particularly facilitated. In a first experiment, target detection was better when targets were threatening than neutral, but the predicted cue enhancement did not occur. In a second experiment, when cue type was blocked, participants were particularly facilitated in responding to threatening targets following fearful precues. It is concluded that consistent and repeated exposure to threatening facial expression results in a generalized increase in processing efficiency and that such a state induces a particular facilitation in responding in the presence of threatening targets.
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Keywords: Facial precues; Speeded visual search; Threat detection

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of York, Heslington, UK

Publication date: 01 June 2011

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