What makes an angry face look so… angry? Examining the shape of threat in children and adults


Threatening facial expressions like anger can signal potential danger. Past research has established that both adults and children have an attentional bias for angry faces, visually detecting their presence more quickly than happy or neutral faces. More recent research has suggested that specific features of angry faces (such as the downward-pointing ‘‘V’’ shaped brow) are the effective stimulus in their rapid detection. However, research examining this issue has only been done with adults. In the current research, we examine the detection of the features of the downwardpointing ‘‘V’’ in both adults and preschool children using a touchscreen visual search procedure. In two experiments, both adults and children detected the downward-pointing ‘‘V’’ more quickly than an upward-pointing ‘‘V’’. As the first evidence that young children exhibit the same superior detection of the features of threatening facial expressions that adults do, this research provides important support for the existence of an evolved attentional bias for threatening stimuli.


Vanessa LoBue
Christine L Larson