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The spatial logic of fear

Ellena, G; Starita, F; Haggard, P; Làdavas, E; (2020) The spatial logic of fear. Cognition , 203 , Article 104336. 10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104336.

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Abstract

Peripersonal space (PPS) refers to the space surrounding the body. PPS is characterised by distinctive patterns of multisensory integration and sensory-motor interaction. In addition, facial expressions have been shown to modulate PPS representation. In this study we tested whether fearful faces lead to a different distribution of spatial attention, compared to neutral and joyful faces. Participants responded to tactile stimuli on the cheeks, while watching looming neutral, joyful (Experiment 1) or fearful (Experiment 2) faces of an avatar, appearing in far or near space. To probe spatial attention, when the tactile stimulus was delivered, a static ball briefly appeared central or peripheral in participant's vision, respectively ≈1° or ≈10° to the left or right of the face. With neutral and joyful faces, simple reactions to tactile stimuli were facilitated in near rather than in far space, replicating classic PPS effects, and in the presence of central rather than peripheral ball, suggesting that attention may be focused in the immediate surrounding of the face. However, when the face was fearful, response to tactile stimuli was modulated not only by the distance of the face from the participant, but also by the position of the ball. Specifically, in near space only, response to tactile stimuli was additionally facilitated by the peripheral compared to the central ball. These results suggest that as fearful faces come closer to the body, they promote a redirection of attention towards the periphery. Given the sensory-motor functions of PPS, this fear-evoked redirection of attention would enhance the defensive function of PPS specifically when it is most needed, i.e. when the source of threat is nearby, but its location has not yet been identified.

Type: Article
Title: The spatial logic of fear
Location: Netherlands
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104336
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104336
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Fearful faces, Joyful faces, Multisensory integration, Peripersonal space, Spatial attention
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10107258
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