Attentional inhibition has social-emotional consequences for unfamiliar faces.

MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.
Psychological Science (Impact Factor: 4.43). 11/2005; 16(10):753-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01609.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Visual attention studies often rely on response time measures to show the impact of attentional facilitation and inhibition. Here we extend the investigation of the effects of attention on behavior and show that prior attentional states associated with unfamiliar faces can influence subsequent social-emotional judgments about those faces. Participants were shown pairs of face images and were asked to withhold a response if a transparent stop-signal cue appeared over one of the faces. This served to associate the cued face with an inhibitory state. Later, when asked to make social-emotional choices about these face pairs, participants chose uncued faces more often than cued faces as "more trustworthy" and chose cued faces more often than uncued faces as "less trustworthy." For perceptual choices, there was no effect of how the question was framed (which face is "on a lighter background" vs. "on a darker background"). These results suggest that attentional inhibition can be associated with socially relevant stimuli, such as faces, and can have specific, deleterious effects on social-emotional judgments.

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