Facial expressions: The role of spatial frequencies for information selection and attention
O. Langner and K. Rothermund
Facial emotional expressions differ in their information profiles, such that salient visual cues that are most characteristic for different expressions may be coded in different spatial frequency (SF) bands. Like other affective stimuli, emotional faces have repeatedly been shown to attract attention systematically, albeit with mixed reports regarding whether positive, negative, or self-relevant expressions are the most salient. Given the differences in SF-profiles between expressions, the emergence of attentional biases may rest on both the availability of the discriminative SF-bands for a particular expression and on the current tuning of the visual system to these SF-bands. Stable interindividual differences have also been demonstrated with regard to the processing both of faces and SFs: Socially anxious individuals exhibit robust attentional biases for negative facial expressions and are also characterized by a bias towards processing the low SF part of images (Langner et al., 2009). Another relevant social variable regarding the interplay between emotional attention and the processing of specific SF-information is an observer’s age. Higher age is related to reduced sensitivity for a range of SFs and possibly to discrimination deficits for particular facial expressions. This project investigates (a) how the presence or absence of specific SF-profile information relates to the attentional selection of facial expressions in general, (b) how people adapt to different SF-profiles when discriminating facial expressions, and (c) whether interindividual differences regarding attentional biases in anxiety or specific emotion discrimination deficits in higher age can be linked to changes in the processing of different SF-bands.