Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Department of Psychology


Krisztina V. Jakobsen


Threatening stimuli may produce an attentional bias in humans, capturing and holding attention to a greater extent than other types of stimuli. Humans rely on others to alert their attention to threats in their environment, and social stimuli, such as faces, have privileged processing compared to nonsocial stimuli. We wanted to explore whether task-irrelevant fearful or neutral faces facilitate, distract, or have no effect on the detection of threatening or neutral images (spiders and frogs, respectively). Three- to-five-year-old children (N=37) completed a visual search task in which they searched for threatening or neutral animals. Consistent with previous literature, we found that participants were slower to detect targets when a face was present, particularly if it was fearful. Interestingly, we found that participants were slower to detect threatening targets than neutral targets. These findings suggest that faces may provide crucial information about the environment that cannot be ignored and therefore, pay particular attention to. This study provides information about how children process fearful and neutral faces in their environments and how these faces may influence their responses to stimuli in their environments.



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