The politics of the face-in-the-crowd

Mark Mills, Kevin B. Smith, John R. Hibbing, Michael D. Dodd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Recent work indicates that the more conservative one is, the faster one is to fixate on negative stimuli, whereas the less conservative one is, the faster one is to fixate on positive stimuli. The present series of experiments used the face-in-the-crowd paradigm to examine whether variability in the efficiency with which positive and negative stimuli are detected underlies such speed differences. Participants searched for a discrepant facial expression (happy or angry) amid a varying number of neutral distractors (Experiments 1 and 4). A combination of response time and eye movement analyses indicated that variability in search efficiency explained speed differences for happy expressions, whereas variability in post-selectional processes explained speed differences for angry expressions. These results appear to be emotionally mediated as search performance did not vary with political temperament when displays were inverted (Experiment 2) or when controlled processing was required for successful task performance (Experiment 3). Taken together, the present results suggest political temperament is at least partially instantiated by attentional biases for emotional material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1199-1213
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Anger-superiority
  • Eye movements
  • Individual differences
  • Politics
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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