SATO Wataru Laboratory

Influence of stimulus manipulation on conscious awareness of emotional facial expressions in the match-to-sample paradigm

(Sato & Yoshikawa: Sci Rep)

The conscious perception of emotional facial expressions plays an indispensable role in social interaction.
However, previous psychological studies have reported inconsistent findings regarding whether conscious awareness is greater for emotional expressions than for neutral expressions.
Furthermore, whether this phenomenon is attributable to emotional or visual factors remains unknown.

To investigate these issues, we conducted five psychological experiments to test the conscious perception of emotional and neutral facial expressions using the match-to-sample paradigm.
Facial stimuli were momentarily presented in the peripheral visual fields while participants read simultaneously presented letters in the central visual fields.
The participants selected a perceived face from nine samples.

The results of all experiments demonstrated that emotional expressions were more accurately identified than neutral expressions.
Furthermore, Experiment 4 showed that angry expressions were identified more accurately than anti-angry expressions, which expressed neutral emotions with comparable physical changes to angry expressions.
Experiment 5, testing the interaction between emotional expression and face direction, showed that angry expressions looking toward participants were more accurately identified than those looking away from participants, even though they were physically identical.

These results suggest that the conscious awareness of emotional facial expressions is enhanced by their emotional significance.

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