All in the first glance: first fixation predicts individual differences in valence bias*

Maital Neta, Tien T. Tong, Monica L. Rosen, Alex Enersen, M. Justin Kim, Michael D. Dodd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Surprised expressions are interpreted as negative by some people, and as positive by others. When compared to fearful expressions, which are consistently rated as negative, surprise and fear share similar morphological structures (e.g. widened eyes), but these similarities are primarily in the upper part of the face (eyes). We hypothesised, then, that individuals would be more likely to interpret surprise positively when fixating faster to the lower part of the face (mouth). Participants rated surprised and fearful faces as either positive or negative while eye movements were recorded. Positive ratings of surprise were associated with longer fixation on the mouth than negative ratings. There were also individual differences in fixation patterns, with individuals who fixated the mouth earlier exhibiting increased positive ratings. These findings suggest that there are meaningful individual differences in how people process faces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-780
Number of pages9
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 19 2017


  • Emotional ambiguity
  • eye tracking
  • fear
  • individual differences
  • surprise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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