We investigated, in young healthy participants, how the affective content of subliminally presented priming images and their specific visual attributes impacted conscious perception of facial expressions. The priming images were broadly categorized as aggressive, pleasant, or neutral and further subcategorized by the presence of a face and by the centricity (egocentric or allocentric vantage-point) of the image content. Participants responded to the emotion portrayed in a pixelated target-face by indicating via key-press if the expression was angry or neutral. Response time to the neutral target face was significantly slower when preceded by face primes, compared to non-face primes (p < 0.05, Bonferroni corrected). In contrast, faster RTs were observed when angry target faces were preceded by face compared to non-face primes. In addition, participants’ performance was worse when a priming image contained an egocentric face compared to when it contained either an allocentric face or an egocentric non-face. The results suggest a significant impact of the visual features of the priming image on conscious perception of face expression.
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