General and own-species attentional face biases

Krisztina V. Jakobsen, Cassidy White, Elizabeth A. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Humans demonstrate enhanced processing of human faces compared with animal faces, known as own-species bias. This bias is important for identifying people who may cause harm, as well as for recognizing friends and kin. However, growing evidence also indicates a more general face bias. Faces have high evolutionary importance beyond conspecific interactions, as they aid in detecting predators and prey. Few studies have explored the interaction of these biases together. In three experiments, we explored processing of human and animal faces, compared with each other and to nonface objects, which allowed us to examine both own-species and broader face biases. We used a dot-probe paradigm to examine human adults’ covert attentional biases for task-irrelevant human faces, animal faces, and objects. We replicated the own-species attentional bias for human faces relative to animal faces. We also found an attentional bias for animal faces relative to objects, consistent with the proposal that faces broadly receive privileged processing. Our findings suggest that humans may be attracted to a broad class of faces. Further, we found that while participants rapidly attended to human faces across all cue display durations, they attended to animal faces only when they had sufficient time to process them. Our findings reveal that the dot-probe paradigm is sensitive for capturing both own-species and more general face biases, and that each has a different attentional signature, possibly reflecting their unique but overlapping evolutionary importance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-198
Number of pages12
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Volume83
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Dot-probe paradigm
  • Face perception
  • General face template
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language

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