The face in the crowd revisited: a threat advantage with schematic stimuli

Arne Öhman*, Daniel Lundqvist, Francisco Esteves

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1085 Citations (Scopus)


Schematic threatening, friendly, and neutral faces were used to test the hypothesis that humans preferentially orient their attention toward threat. Using a visual search paradigm, participants searched for discrepant faces in matrices of otherwise identical faces. Across 5 experiments, results consistently showed faster and more accurate detection of threatening than friendly targets. The threat advantage was obvious regardless of whether the conditions favored parallel or serial search (i.e., involved neutral or emotional distractors). and it was valid for inverted faces. Threatening angry faces were more quickly and accurately detected than were other negative faces (sad or "scheming"), which suggests that the threat advantage can be attributed to threat rather than to the negative valence or the uniqueness of the target display.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-396
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes


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