Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Look to the side of you to spot threats quickly

People's brains process scared faces more quickly when they are seen in the periphery of one's vision than when they are seen straight ahead. Researchers from the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale in France scanned 11 people's brains while they judged whether faces displayed on a computer screen were happy or not. However, the real point of the experiment lay in subliminally-presented fearful faces either straight ahead on the screen or in the periphery of the participant's vision. The study found that faces in the periphery of people's vision were actually processed much more quickly in a region of the brain known to be involved in processing emotions. This could be, thought the researchers, because fearful faces seen from the side are processed using a quicker, less-sophisticated visual-processing system than faces seen from the front. This might be because unexpected threats are more likely to come from side-on than from straight ahead.

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