Do facially disfiguring features influence attention and perception of faces? Evidence from an antisaccade task

Luc Boutsen*, Nathan Pearson, Martin Jüttner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Facial disfigurements can influence how observers attend to and interact with the person, leading to disease-avoidance behaviour and emotions (disgust, threat, fear for contagion). However, it is unclear whether this behaviour is reflected in the effect of the facial stigma on attention and perceptual encoding of facial information. We addressed this question by measuring, in a mixed antisaccade task, observers' speed and accuracy of orienting of visual attention towards or away from peripherally presented upright and inverted unfamiliar faces that had either a realistic looking disease-signalling feature (a skin discolouration), a non-disease-signalling control feature, or no added feature. The presence of a disfiguring or control feature did not influence the orienting of attention (in terms of saccadic latency) towards upright faces, suggesting that avoidance responses towards facial stigma do not occur during covert attention. However, disfiguring and control features significantly reduced the effect of face inversion on saccadic latency, thus suggesting an impact on the holistic processing of facial information. The implications of these findings for the encoding and appraisal of facial disfigurements are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Early online date13 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

Keywords

  • face inversion
  • antisaccades
  • avoidance
  • attention
  • facial disfigurements

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