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Keywords:

  • Attentional capture;
  • Emotion;
  • Face recognition;
  • N2pc;
  • LPP;
  • N170

Abstract

Previous studies utilizing the N2pc, an ERP correlate of attentional focusing, demonstrated that fearful faces grab attention regardless of their relevance to the current task. We tested whether this apparent automaticity was susceptible to high concurrent task demand, which is known to suppress other cortical and subcortical emotional evaluations. Our data revealed that the affective attentional capture occurred even under high task load, by which the late cortical affective activity (the LPP modulation) was entirely suppressed. We also confirmed that this effect did not occur to inverted faces and therefore required a holistic perception of facial expression. These results show that, given an intact processing of facial expression, attention is attracted by fearful faces in a relatively automatic fashion as compared to other cortical affective processes.