The influence of emotional faces on the spatial allocation of attention

Academic Article


  • © 2014. Background objectives: Studies suggest that the right hemisphere is dominant for emotional facial recognition. In addition, whereas some studies suggest the right hemisphere mediates the processing of all emotions (dominance hypothesis), other studies suggest that the left hemisphere mediates positive emotions the right mediates negative emotions (valence hypothesis). Since each hemisphere primarily attends to contralateral space, the goals of this study was to learn if emotional faces would induce a leftward deviation of attention and if the valence of facial emotional stimuli can influence the normal viewer's spatial direction of attention. Methods: Seventeen normal right handed participants were asked to bisect horizontal lines that had all combinations of sad, happy or neutral faces at ends of these lines. During this task the subjects were never requested to look at these faces and there were no task demands that depended on viewing these faces. Results: Presentation of emotional faces induced a greater leftward deviation compared to neutral faces, independent of where (spatial position) these faces were presented. However, faces portraying negative emotions tended to induce a greater leftward bias than positive emotions. Conclusions: Independent of location, the presence of emotional faces influenced the spatial allocation of attention, such that normal subjects shift the direction of their attention toward left hemispace and this attentional shift appears to be greater for negative (sad) than positive faces (happy).
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Armaghani SJ; Crucian GP; Heilman KM
  • Start Page

  • 108
  • End Page

  • 112
  • Volume

  • 91