What is it about?

It is widely accepted that humans pay attention to faces preferentially. Our recent work has challenged this notion showing that spontaneous face preference is abolished when general non-social factors – such as face visual content (luminance, configuration, attractiveness), context within which face is presented (background), and task requirements (method of response) are systematically controlled. In this study we show that attending to faces is most consistently biased by perceived facial attractiveness, and not other visual factors like global luminance or face featural configuration. This suggests that a social value like perceived attractiveness may be one of the key driving factors in spontaneous attending for faces often seen in real life.

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Why is it important?

This paper points to facial attractiveness as an important factor in spontaneous attentional biasing toward faces. Thus, this result highlights the necessity of studying and capturing the 'social' and 'non-social' aspects of environmental stimuli in order to understand how social value of information influences our complex cognitive and social behavior. This understanding would also broaden theoretical conceptualizations of human attention and would help in understanding the evolutionary, developmental, social, cognitive, and neurological importance of faces.

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This page is a summary of: Social attention as a general mechanism? Demonstrating the influence of stimulus content factors on social attentional biasing., Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception & Performance, April 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xhp0000984.
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