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The effect of presentation time and working memory load on emotion recognition.

Current research on the role of cognitive resources on emotional face recognition provides inconclusive support for the automaticity model. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of working memory load and attentional control on emotion recognition. Participants (N=60) were shown photographs of fearful, angry, happy and neutral faces for 200 ms, 700 ms or 1400 ms while engaging in concurrent working memory load task. A restricted response time was employed. Data analysis revealed that presentation time did not affect the reaction time across emotions. Furthermore, reactions times were marginally affected by graded load. Reaction times to fear and anger were significantly greater compared to other emotions across load conditions. These findings are relatively congruent with the automaticity theory and negativity bias, suggesting that efficient emotion recognition can occur even in the expenditure of working memory processes, whereas longer reaction time for negative stimuli indicates the partial involvement of higher cognitive processes that are necessary for evaluating potential threats. It is suggested that although processing negative emotional faces can be carried out automatically, at the same it requires sufficient attention in order to be executed.

Author(s): Tsouli A, Pateraki L, Spentza I, Nega C