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08-08-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2016

Psychological Research 6/2016

Processing of face identity in the affective flanker task: a diffusion model analysis

Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2016
Christina J. Mueller, Lars Kuchinke


Affective flanker tasks often present affective facial expressions as stimuli. However, it is not clear whether the identity of the person on the target picture needs to be the same for the flanker stimuli or whether it is better to use pictures of different persons as flankers. While Grose-Fifer, Rodrigues, Hoover & Zottoli (Advances in Cognitive Psychology 9(2):81–91, 2013) state that attentional focus might be captured by processing the differences between faces, i.e. the identity, and therefore use pictures of the same individual as target and flanker stimuli, Munro, Dywan, Harris, McKee, Unsal & Segalowitz (Biological Psychology, 76:31–42, 2007) propose an advantage in presenting pictures of a different individual as flankers. They state that participants might focus only on small visual changes when targets and flankers are from the same individual instead of processing the affective content of the stimuli. The present study manipulated face identity in a between-subject design. Through investigation of behavioral measures as well as diffusion model parameters, we conclude that both types of flankers work equally efficient. This result seems best supported by recent accounts that propose an advantage of emotional processing over identity processing in face recognition. In the present study, there is no evidence that the processing of the face identity attracts sufficient attention to interfere with the affective evaluation of the target and flanker faces.

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