When Is a Face No Longer a Face? A Problematic Dichotomy in Visual Detection Research

Emotion Review 8 (3):250-257 (2016)
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Countless studies have reported that individuals detect threatening/angry faces faster than happy/neutral faces. Two classic views have been used to explain this phenomenon—that negative valence drives the effect, or conversely, that low-level perceptual characteristics of the stimuli are responsible for their rapid detection. In the current review, I question whether dichotomous perspectives are the most parsimonious way to explain a large and inconsistent literature. Further, I argue that nondichotomous, multicomponent accounts for the detection of emotionally valenced stimuli might help take us beyond traditional approaches to visual detection research, and I suggest various ways in which future research can use these newer approaches to more effectively elucidate the mechanisms underlying the rapid detection of emotionally valenced stimuli.



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