Emotional faces guide the eyes in the absence of awareness

Petra Vetter, Stephanie Badde, Elizabeth A. Phelps, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to act quickly to a threat is a key skill for survival. Under awareness, threat-related emotional information, such as an angry or fearful face, has not only perceptual advantages but also guides rapid actions such as eye movements. Emotional information that is suppressed from awareness still confers perceptual and attentional benefits. However, it is unknown whether suppressed emotional information can directly guide actions, or whether emotional information has to enter awareness to do so. We suppressed emotional faces from awareness using continuous flash suppression and tracked eye gaze position. Under successful suppression, as indicated by objective and subjective measures, gaze moved towards fearful faces, but away from angry faces. Our findings reveal that: (1) threat-related emotional stimuli can guide eye movements in the absence of visual awareness; (2) threat-related emotional face information guides distinct oculomotor actions depending on the type of threat conveyed by the emotional expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere43467
StatePublished - Feb 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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