Frontiers in Psychology
Frontiers Media S.A.
Attentional Bias to Facial Expressions of Different Emotions – A Cross-Cultural Comparison of ≠Akhoe Hai||om and German Children and Adolescents
Volume: 11
DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00795

The attentional bias to negative information enables humans to quickly identify and to respond appropriately to potentially threatening situations. Because of its adaptive function, the enhanced sensitivity to negative information is expected to represent a universal trait, shared by all humans regardless of their cultural background. However, existing research focuses almost exclusively on humans from Western industrialized societies, who are not representative for the human species. Therefore, we compare humans from two distinct cultural contexts: adolescents and children from Germany, a Western industrialized society, and from the ≠Akhoe Hai||om, semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers in Namibia. We predicted that both groups show an attentional bias toward negative facial expressions as compared to neutral or positive faces. We used eye-tracking to measure their fixation duration on facial expressions depicting different emotions, including negative (fear, anger), positive (happy), and neutral faces. Both Germans and the ≠Akhoe Hai||om gazed longer at fearful faces, but shorter on angry faces, challenging the notion of a general bias toward negative emotions. For happy faces, fixation durations varied between the two groups, suggesting more flexibility in the response to positive emotions. Our findings emphasize the need for placing research on emotion perception into an evolutionary, cross-cultural comparative framework that considers the adaptive significance of specific emotions, rather than differentiating between positive and negative information, and enables systematic comparisons across participants from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Keywords Bias to Facial Expressions of Different Emotions – A Cross-Cultural Comparison of ≠Akhoe Hai||om and German Children and Adolescents&author=Cordelia Mühlenbeck,Carla Pritsch,Isabell Wartenburger,Silke Telkemeyer,Katja Liebal,&keyword=attentional bias,fear bias,emotions,facial expressions,cross-cultural comparison,≠Akhoe Hai||om,Germans,adolescents,&subject=Psychology,Brief Research Report,