A central question in perception is how stimuli are selected for access to awareness. This study investigated the impact of emotional meaning on detection of faces using the attention blink paradigm. Experiment 1 showed that fearful faces were detected more frequently than neutral faces, and Experiment 2 revealed preferential detection of fearful faces compared with happy faces. To rule out image artifacts as a cause for these results, Experiment 3 manipulated the emotional meaning of neutral faces through fear conditioning and showed a selective increase in detection of conditioned faces. These results extend previous reports of preferential detection of emotional words or schematic objects and suggest that fear conditioning can modulate detection of formerly neutral stimuli.
- facial expressions