The effect of emotional faces on eye movements and attention.

Amelia Hunt, Robbie Cooper, Clara Hungr, Alan Kingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The present study investigated the nature of attention to facial expressions using an oculomotor capture paradigm. Participants were required to make a speeded saccade toward a predefined target and ignore distractors. The valence (happy or angry) and orientation (upright or inverted) of the target and distractors varied. We found evidence that irrelevant happy and angry face distractors did capture attention, but only when emotions were the target of search. Eye movements were not directed toward angry distractors any more often than toward happy distractors, and saccades to angry face targets were no faster than to other targets. The results provide evidence that emotion information can be used as a feature to voluntarily select targets and direct attention, suggesting attention is not necessary for the identification of emotional expression. There was no evidence, however, that angry face stimuli have a special priority for reflexively orienting attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-531
Number of pages19
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2007


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