Detection of Emotional Faces Is Modulated by the Direction of Eye Gaze

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Abstract

Emotionally expressive faces have shown enhanced detectability over neutral faces, but little is known about the effect of eye gaze on detecting the presence of emotional faces. Emotional expressions and gaze direction are both cues to the intentions of another person, and gaze direction has been shown to affect recognition accuracy and perceived intensity of emotional faces. The current study showed that fearful faces were detected more frequently with an averted gaze than with a direct gaze in an attentional blink task, whereas angry and happy faces were detected more frequently with a direct gaze than with an averted gaze. The results are in line with the shared signal hypothesis and appraisal theory and suggest that selection for awareness was based on a rapid evaluation of the intentions of another person as conveyed by their facial expression and gaze direction.

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