Cognitive aspects of emotional expression processing
This thesis investigates the hypothesis that emotions play an influential role in cognition. Interference between facial emotional expression processing and selected tasks is measured using a variety of experimental methods. Prior to the main experimental chapters, the collection and assessment (Chapter 2, Exp. 1) of stimulus materials is described. Experiments 2-11 then concentrate on the likelihood of interference with other types of information from the face. Findings using a Garner design suggest that, although identity processing may be independent of expression variation, expression processing may be influenced by variation in identity (Exps. 2-4). Continued use of this design with sex (Exps. 6-7) and gaze direction (Exps. 9-10) information appears to support the (mutual) independence of these facial dimensions from expression. This is, however, in contrast to studies that indicate the modification of masculinity judgements by expression (Exp. 5), and the interaction of gaze direction and expression when participants rate how interesting they find a face (Exp. 8). Further to this, a search task (Exp. 11) shows that slower responses to an angry (cf. happy) face looking at us, may be due to the presence of an aversive mouth. Experiments 12-15 test for interference in the field of time perception: complex interactions between expression and encoder and decoder sex are indicated. Finally, Experiments 16-17 find that exposure to a sequence in which the majority of faces are angry depresses probability learning, and that prior exposure to varying quantities of angry and happy faces affects our later memory for them. Overall, there is evidence that exposure to emotional expressions may affect other (selected)c ognitive processesd ependingu pon which expressionsa re used and which experimental methods are chosen. It is suggested that future investigations would benefit from techniques that describe the temporal profile of an emotional response.