As per a recent study, anger and other expressions affect the movements of those looking at them.
A face that enters your field of view will distract your attention and influence the course of your actions (it works as a sort of attractor). But what exactly is there in a face that is so irresistibly “attractive”?
According to the study carried out at SISSA, both the gender of the face and the emotion it expresses have distracting effects, though the latter seems to respond to a deeper, automatic and implicit mechanism.
Researchers Elisabetta Ambron, Raffaella Rumiati and Francesco Foroni conducted experiments in which a motor task performed on a tablet display screen was disturbed by the appearance of faces.
According to the authors, emotionally charged expressions are a powerful distractor that works even at an implicit level (without attention being paid to this type of stimulus).
Expressions, and in particular anger, which was shown to have the most pronounced effect in their experiments, are evolutionarily important stimuli as they can, for example, protect us from aggression. For this reason, the result is not surprising, explains Foroni.
Foroni added that the negative aspect of this distractor effect, on the other hand, is that it can lead to dangerous situations. Imagine a driver being distracted by billboards showing faces – it’s not such an unlikely situation. Those in charge of road safety should take this into account.
The study appears in Cognitive Neuroscience.