Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Perceptual Conformity in Facial Emotion Processing

Gibbs Scott, April (2013) Perceptual Conformity in Facial Emotion Processing. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (1MB) | Preview


The ability to recognize and respond quickly to visual signals of threat is critical for survival. Threatening faces are hypothesized to capture visual attention more rapidly than nonthreatening faces. This experiment tested the perceptual conformity hypothesis, which predicts that attention differences elicited by threatening vs. nonthreatening faces depend on whether the inner facial features follow the curvature of the outer facial surround.
In a pre-experimental study, 38 participants rated the affect of stimuli with and without a facial surround. These ratings determined the stimuli for an experimental flankers task, which was completed by 35 different participants. Flanker displays included compatible and incompatible trials, in which flanker stimuli, if responded to, would or would not have the same response as the centrally-located targets.
The flankers experiment examined a) whether emotionally neutral surround-present and surround-absent stimuli, containing conforming and nonconforming inner lines, generated the flanker-effect asymmetries that have been reported for angry vs. happy faces; and b) whether incompatible flankers with nonconforming inner lines would generate more response interference than those with conforming inner lines, in both surround conditions.
No flanker-effect asymmetry or difference in response interference were obtained for either surround condition. For surround-present trials, reaction times were significantly faster to targets with conforming inner lines than to those with nonconforming inner lines, and to compatible as opposed to incompatible trials. For surround-absent trials, participants responded faster to compatible trials, and there were no reaction time differences between targets with conforming and nonconforming inner lines.
The results are not consistent with the perceptual conformity hypothesis. One potential reason is that perceptual conformity may not account for the reported attention distribution differences to threatening vs. nonthreatening faces. Some other perceptual feature may explain previously documented flanker-effect asymmetries, or facial affect may override perceptual contributions to these asymmetries. Such interpretations are clouded, however, by the inconclusive and potentially confounded extant literature and the scant evidence for the flanker-effect asymmetry based on facial threat. Assuming the validity of the reported attention differences, future research is needed to elucidate the attributes that consistently elicit such differences for targets that convey specific categories of emotion.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gibbs Scott,
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTompkins, Connietompkins@pitt.eduTOMPKINS
Committee MemberMcNeil, MalcolmMcNeil@pitt.eduMCNEIL
Committee MemberDickey, Michaelmdickey@pitt.eduMDICKEY
Committee MemberStrauss, Markstrauss@pitt.eduSTRAUSS
Date: 12 September 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 24 July 2013
Approval Date: 12 September 2013
Submission Date: 22 July 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 170
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences > Communication Science and Disorders
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: facial emotion, visual attention, facial threat, perceptual conformity
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2013 15:05
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:14


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item