Effect of perceived gaze direction on emotion processing

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The primary goal of the proposed research is to examine the effect that perceived eye gaze direction has on the processing of facial affect. Previous research efforts examining gaze and facial affect perception have been conducted independently. However, there is good reason believe that these cues share an underlying signal value of either approach or avoidance. Specifically, it is hypothesized that direct eye gaze will facilitate the perception and detection of facially communicated anger, whereas averted eye gaze will facilitate the perception and detection of facially communicated fear. Four phases of research are proposed. Using reaction time and memory paradigms, Phase 1 investigates the notion that direct and averted eye gaze facilitate or inhibit the processing of anger and fear expressions. Phase 2 utilizes a visual search paradigm to explore the possibility that the combined processing of these cues is innately prepared. Phase 3, investigates the role of the amygdala in processing facially communicated anger and fear combined with direct versus averted eye gaze. Finally, Phase 4 extends a pre-existing literature on joint attention by addressing the role of facial affect. Broadly, this research will 1) help resolve longstanding controversies in the field of facial affect perception, 2) tie together two seemingly disparate lines of research (visually mediated attention and facial affect), and 3) help theorists better understand psychopathological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, and localized brain lesions such as amygdalotomy that are marked by problems in the processing of nonverbal facial cues.
Effective start/end date9/27/029/26/03


  • National Institute of Mental Health: $36,592.00

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