The effect of self-referential expectation on emotional face processing

McKendrick, Mel and Butler, Stephen H. and Grealy, Madeleine A. (2016) The effect of self-referential expectation on emotional face processing. PLoS ONE. pp. 1-20. ISSN 1932-6203

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    Abstract

    The role of self-relevance has been somewhat neglected in static face processing paradigms but may be important in understanding how emotional faces impact on attention, cognition and affect. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of self-relevant primes on processing emotional composite faces. Sentence primes created an expectation of the emotion of the face before sad, happy, neutral or composite face photos were viewed. Eye movements were recorded and subsequent responses measured the cognitive and affective impact of the emotion expressed. Results indicated that primes did not guide attention, but impacted on judgments of valence intensity and self-esteem ratings. Negative self-relevant primes led to the most negative self-esteem ratings, although the effect of the prime was qualified by salient facial features. Self-relevant expectations about the emotion of a face and subsequent attention to a face that is congruent with these expectations strengthened the affective impact of viewing the face.