Understanding How the Information in Faces Influences Perception and Attention to Marijuana Images
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Individuals are inclined to orient their attention to locations cued by anothers’ eye gaze (Dunham & Moore, 1995), which is sensitive to the emotional expression of the cue and the motivational relevance of targets (e.g. Bayliss et al., 2007; Graham, 2014; Pecchinenda et al., 2008). This may be due, in part, to associative priming reflective of implicit attitudes towards targets (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998). The goal of this study was to investigate the influence of facial expressions and motivationally relevant targets on gaze-triggered orienting. A secondary objective was to determine whether attitudes towards marijuana modulate gaze cuing. Seventy-two participants completed a computerized task, in which they identified marijuana and non-marijuana target images that were validly or invalidly cued by gazing expressive faces (disgusted, surprised, happy), and an online survey asking them about marijuana-related attitudes. Participants were fastest to identify targets when gaze cues were predictive of target location, regardless of facial expression and target type. Analysis of identification accuracy revealed a facial expression x target type x validity interaction, which was due to a decrease in response accuracy when participants responded to non-marijuana targets validly cued by happy faces. For the secondary goal, survey data was used to create an index of positive/negative attitudes towards marijuana. Correlations between this index and the cuing effects to marijuana targets by different facial expressions revealed that larger cuing effects for disgusted faces and marijuana targets were associated more positive attitudes towards marijuana. Results suggest that motivationally relevant target images, in conjunction with expressive faces, can create expectancies that may be sensitive to attitudes about the targets.