Attentional bias towards happy faces in the dot-probe paradigm: it depends on which task is used

Cognition and Emotion 38 (2):217-231 (2024)
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Two recent articles [Gronchi et al., Citation2018. Automatic and controlled attentional orienting in the elderly: A dual-process view of the positivity effect. Acta Psychologica, 185, 229–234; Wirth & Wentura, Citation2020. It occurs after all: Attentional bias towards happy faces in the dot-probe task. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 82(5), 2463–2481] report attentional biases for happy facial expressions in the dot-probe paradigm, albeit in different directions. While Wirth and Wentura report a bias towards happy expressions, Gronchi et al. found a reversed effect. A striking difference between the studies was the task performed by the participants. While in Wirth and Wentura, participants performed a discrimination task, they performed a location task in Gronchi et al. In Experiment 1, we directly compared the two versions of the dot-probe paradigm. With the discrimination task, the bias towards happy faces was replicated. However, the location task yielded a null effect. In Experiment 2, we found a cueing effect with an abrupt onset cue in both tasks. However, for the location task a congruence-sequence effect (a typical characteristic of response-priming processes) occurred. This result suggests that in the location task, attentional processes are confounded with response-priming processes. We recommend to generally use discrimination tasks.



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