Faces and Orientational Metaphors: The Effects of Valenced Faces and Facial Manipulations on Neutral Targets
Previous research has shown that there may be an association between affect (negative vs. positive) and vertical position (up vs. down) of stimuli. The following research aimed to investigate whether individuals show spatial biases, either up or down, when asked to respond to neutral targets after seeing valenced faces. The research also aimed to investigate what impact manipulating automatic facial mimicry responses would have on response times. The research was conducted over three experiments. In Experiment 1, participants responded to neutral targets in either high or low vertical positions on a computer screen that were preceded by happy and sad schematic faces. There were two facial manipulation conditions. One group held a straw between their lips to inhibit smiling and another group held a straw between their teeth to facilitate smiling. A third group performed the response task without a straw (control condition). The procedure of Experiment 2 was identical to Experiment 1 except the happy and sad schematic faces had additional internal facial features (noses, eyebrows) that varied across trials. For both Experiment 1 and 2, targets preceded by a happy face were responded to significantly faster. In Experiment 3, the procedure was identical to Experiments 1 and 2, except photographic images of happy, neutral, and sad expressions were used. Participants were significantly faster to respond to targets in the high vertical position. Participants were also faster to respond to targets in the control (no straw) condition than the other two straw conditions. In the inhibition smiling condition, participants were faster to respond to targets in the high vertical position than low vertical position after seeing a happy or neutral face. These findings indicate that there may be an association between valenced faces and vertical selective attention that is consistent with orientational metaphors (positive = up), but further research is needed to clarify this.