Implicit conditioning of faces via the social regulation of emotion: ERP evidence of early attentional biases for security conditioned faces


  • The authors thank Belel Ait-Ouzemine, Casey Brown, Rolf Garcia, Laura Long, Matt Lerner, and Julian Wills for their help with this project.

Address correspondence to: Lane Beckes, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, 102 Gilmer Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA. E-mail:


Not much is known about the neural and psychological processes that promote the initial conditions necessary for positive social bonding. This study explores one method of conditioned bonding utilizing dynamics related to the social regulation of emotion and attachment theory. This form of conditioning involves repeated presentations of negative stimuli followed by images of warm, smiling faces. L. Beckes, J. Simpson, and A. Erickson (2010) found that this conditioning procedure results in positive associations with the faces measured via a lexical decision task, suggesting they are perceived as comforting. This study found that the P1 ERP was similarly modified by this conditioning procedure and the P1 amplitude predicted lexical decision times to insecure words primed by the faces. The findings have implications for understanding how the brain detects supportive people, the flexibility and modifiability of early ERP components, and social bonding more broadly.