Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Secret Service and Protection: Danger Detection Articles, APA Journal of Emotion

Two articles stand out, and when combined with psychology profiles of potential threats could prove to be life saving.

Not just another face in the crowd: Detecting emotional schematic faces during continuous flash suppression.

To test whether threatening visual information receives prioritized processing, many studies have examined visual search for emotional schematic faces. Still, it has remained unclear whether negative or positive schematic faces are processed more efficiently. We used continuous flash suppression, a variant of binocular rivalry, to render single emotional schematic faces invisible and measured whether negative or positive faces have an advantage in accessing awareness. Across three experiments, positive faces were detected more quickly than negative faces. A fourth experiment indicated that this positive face advantage was unrelated to the valence of the face stimuli but due to the relative orientation of the mouth curvature and the face contour. These findings demonstrate the impact of configural stimulus properties on perceptual suppression during binocular rivalry and point to a perceptual confound present in emotional schematic faces that might account for some ambiguous results obtained with schematic face stimuli in previous studies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

Memory and attention for social threat: Anxious hypercoding-avoidance and submissive gaze aversion.

Rivalry for dominance is a recurrent challenge in human social interaction. During these social dominance interactions, some people rapidly break eye contact, whereas others merely try to avoid such eye-to-eye confrontations. The first is an example of submissive gaze aversion, whereas the second reflects anxious gaze avoidance. We tested these distinct forms of gaze behavior within a social-memory setting and show that anxious individuals vigilantly attend to, superiorly remember, and subsequently avoid social threats (i.e., angry faces). Furthermore, submissive individuals, as indexed by high trait anxiety and low trait anger, exhibit rapid gaze aversion from facial anger. Mechanisms of hypervigilance–avoidance thus seem to underlie natural gaze behavior and enhanced memory for threat in anxiety. Accordingly, we propose the term hypercoding-avoidance, which describes how anxious individuals habitually scan their immediate social environment for threat, remember its location, and subsequently avoid it. Moreover, this is the first experimental evidence showing that submissive gaze aversion is distinct from anxious gaze avoidance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).