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26-11-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2018

Psychological Research 2/2018

Modulating adaptation to emotional faces by spatial frequency filtering

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2018
Giulia Prete, Bruno Laeng, Luca Tommasi


In four experiments, we investigated the presence and strength of perceptual aftereffects to emotional faces, using spatial frequency filtering to manipulate awareness of emotional content. We presented angry and happy faces as adapters and used a control condition without adaptation. Participants were subsequently requested to judge the friendliness level of a neutral target face. We confirmed the well-known aftereffect for unfiltered emotional faces in Experiment 1. In the experiment, friendliness judgments were greater for the angry than the happy or the control condition. In Experiment 2, in which the “hidden” emotional expression contained in the low spatial frequencies (LSF) was superimposed to the neutral expression presented in the rest of SF of the same image (emotional hybrid faces), the difference in friendliness judgments between angry and happy was significant, but none of the two conditions significantly differed from the control. In Experiment 3, faces were presented at LSF, confirmed a difference between the two emotions, but only the judgments of angry faces differed from the control condition. In Experiment 4, we extended the initial finding to stimuli presented at middle and high spatial frequencies (M-HSF). Finally, a comparison among all experiments revealed that the aftereffect was stronger with angry faces filtered at M-HSF than all of the other filtering conditions, whereas there were no differences for happy faces. We conclude that spatial frequency filtering influences aftereffects and that these effects are also related to emotional awareness. The results are discussed with reference to the dual route model of visual perception.

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