At face value : categorization goals modulate vigilance for angry faces

L.F. Van Dillen, D. Lakens, K. Bos, van den

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The present research demonstrates that the attention bias to angry faces is modulated by how people categorize these faces. Since facial expressions contain psychologically meaningful information for social categorizations (i.e., gender, personality) but not for non-social categorizations (i.e., eye-color), angry facial expression should especially capture attention during social categorization tasks. Indeed, in three studies, participants were slower to name the gender of angry compared to happy or neutral faces, but not their color (blue or green; Study 1) or eye-color (blue or brown; Study 2). Furthermore, when different eye-colors were linked to a personality trait (introversion, extraversion) versus sensitivity to light frequencies (high, low), angry faces only slowed down categorizations when eye-color was indicative of a social characteristic (Study 3). Thus, vigilance for angry facial expressions is contingent on people's categorization goals, supporting the perspective that even basic attentional processes are moderated by social influences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-240
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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