Familiarity facilitates detection of angry expressions

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Vassiki ChauhanM Ida Gobbini


Personal familiarity facilitates rapid and optimized detection of faces. In this study, we investigated whether familiarity associated with faces can also facilitate the detection of facial expressions. Models of face processing propose that face identity and face expression detection are mediated by distinct pathways. We used a visual search paradigm to assess if facial expressions of emotion (anger and happiness) were detected more rapidly when produced by familiar as compared to unfamiliar faces. We found that participants detected an angry expression 11% more accurately and 135 ms faster when produced by familiar as compared to unfamiliar faces while happy expressions were detected with equivalent accuracies and at equivalent speeds for familiar and unfamiliar faces. These results suggest that detectors in the visual system dedicated to processing features of angry expressions are optimized for familiar faces.

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