Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-6-2022


The progression of affective science in the last few decades has brought with it a sub-field concerned with whether task-irrelevant facial expressions of emotion guide selective attention against our will. Such attentional bias is intuitively plausible, yet numerous recent studies were unable to observe it, motivating a meta-analysis (Chapter 2). Although the overall effect of 2.4 ms from 152 cases (g = .0823) was significantly greater than zero, its small size indicates a barely detectable phenomenon with no practical significance. A plausible explanation for this lack of attentional bias for emotional faces was tested in Chapter 3; even infrequently presented emotions could not bias attention. Also, attended emotional faces could not further modulate spatial attention (Chapter 4). Emotional faces can be processed automatically yet are virtually unable to bias spatial attention. Potential explanations include the questionable validity of emotional face cues and the mechanisms underlying attentional bias.

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Eric Ruthruff

Second Committee Member

James Cavanaugh

Third Committee Member

Jeremy Hogeveen

Fourth Committee Member

Joshua M. Carlson



Document Type


Available for download on Wednesday, July 31, 2024

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Psychology Commons