Satisfactory interpersonal interaction involves understanding others' facial expressions. Alcoholic individuals often have severe interpersonal difficulties that may relate to poor and distorted perception of facial expressions. The importance of attention direction has been highlighted by the finding, in recent primate studies, of neurons responsible for the detection of attention direction. Studies on humans suggest that expression perception is modulated by attention direction (whether the expression is directed towards or away from the observer). Here. for the first time, the relationship between attention direction and perception of expression (anger, sadness, happiness and disgust) in alcoholic and control subjects is investigated. We used animated facial stimuli depicting different emotions to give measures of recognition accuracy and of perceptual sensitivity. Our study demonstrated that alcoholics made more errors than control subjects in recognising expressions generally and had a tendency to mis-label sad expressions directed towards them as being hostile (angry/disgusted). When asked to select the point when they started to see the expression, alcoholics. especially female alcoholics, chose higher expression intensities. This study highlights the importance of investigating the modulating effects of attention direction when studying the perception of expressions and provides an indication of how alcoholics' inappropriate social reactions may be triggered, (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
- face perception
- non-verbal behaviour