fMRI of attention and automaticity in judgments from facial appearance

Abstract

Facial social judgments such as trustworthiness, indeed the processing of facial and emotional stimuli are fast (Bar, 2006) and are often proposed to take place in an automatic fashion, that is independent of top down factors such as attention (Jonides 1983). Here we present work that challenges the automaticity account of such judgements. In a series of experiments we apply load theory (Lavie, 1995, 2010), to investigate subjective judgements under load. Employing a combined visual search and face judgement task, where the level of attentional load in the search task was manipulated (by varying the search set size) the results indicated reduced accuracy for trustworthy judgements under the effects of attentional (perceptual) load. Finally, in a neuro-imaging task (that is a pure signal response to facial stimuli) we again illustrate the effect of load, where high load modulates (at a neural basis) trustworthy faces.


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