Here Is Looking at You: Emotional Faces Predominate in Binocular Rivalry
Georg W. Alpers and Antje B. M. Gerdes
University of Wurzburg
Emotion. 2007 Aug;7(3):495-506.
Background: Two incompatible pictures compete for perceptual dominance when they are presented to one eye each. This so-called binocular rivalry results in an alternation of dominant and suppressed percepts. In accordance with current theories of emotion processing, the authors' previous research has suggested that emotionally arousing pictures predominate in this perceptual process.
Methods: Three experiments were run with pictures of emotional facial expressions that are known to induce emotions while being well controlled in terms of physical characteristics. In Experiment 1, photographs of emotional and neutral facial expressions were presented of the same actor to minimize physical differences. In Experiment 2, schematic emotional expressions were presented to further eliminate low-level differences. In Experiment 3, a probe-detection task was conducted to control for possible response-biases.
Results: These data clearly demonstrate that emotional facial expressions predominate over neutral expressions; they are more often the first percept and they are perceived for longer durations. This is not caused by physical stimulus properties or by response-biases.
Conclusions: This novel approach supports that emotionally significant visual stimuli are preferentially perceived.