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Lateralized hybrid faces: Evidence of a valence-specific bias in the processing of implicit emotions

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It is well known that hemispheric asymmetries exist for both the analyses of low-level visual information (such as spatial frequency) and high-level visual information (such as emotional expressions). In this study, we assessed which of the above factors underlies perceptual laterality effects with “hybrid faces”: a type of stimulus that allows testing for unaware processing of emotional expressions, when the emotion is displayed in the low-frequency information while an image of the same face with a neutral expression is superimposed to it. Despite hybrid faces being perceived as neutral, the emotional information modulates observers’ social judgements. In the present study, participants were asked to assess friendliness of hybrid faces displayed tachistoscopically, either centrally or laterally to fixation. We found a clear influence of the hidden emotions also with lateral presentations. Happy faces were rated as more friendly and angry faces as less friendly with respect to neutral faces. In general, hybrid faces were evaluated as less friendly when they were presented in the left visual field/right hemisphere than in the right visual field/left hemisphere. The results extend the validity of the valence hypothesis in the specific domain of unaware (subcortical) emotion processing.
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Keywords: Emotion perception; Hemispheric specialization; Hybrid faces; Spatial frequencies; Subcortical route

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Neuroscience and Imaging, ‘G. d'Annunzio’ University of Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy 2: Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway 3: Department of Psychological Science, Humanities and Territory, ‘G. d'Annunzio’ University of Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy

Publication date: July 4, 2014

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