The cerebral correlates of subliminal emotions: an eleoencephalographic study with emotional hybrid faces

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Abstract

In a high-resolution electroencephalographic study, participants evaluated the friendliness level of upright and inverted ‘hybrid faces’, i.e. facial photos containing a subliminal emotional core in the low spatial frequencies (< 6 cycles/image), superimposed on a neutral expression in the rest of the spatial frequencies. Upright happy and angry faces were judged as more friendly or less friendly than neutral faces, respectively. We observed the time course of cerebral correlates of these stimuli with event-related potentials (ERPs), confirming that hybrid faces elicited the posterior emotion-related and face-related components (P1, N170 and P2), previously shown to be engaged by non-subliminal emotional stimuli. In addition, these components were stronger in the right hemisphere and were both enhanced and delayed by face inversion. A frontal positivity (210–300 ms) was stronger for emotional than for neutral faces, and for upright than for inverted faces. Hence, hybrid faces represent an original approach in the study of subliminal emotions, which appears promising for investigating their electrophysiological correlates.

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