Publication Date

Summer 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Andrew Mienaltowski (Director), Rick Grieve, and Amy Brausch

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Past research demonstrates that fearful faces lead to an increase in temporal and a decrease in spatial gap detection, an effect proposed to be caused by a flow of input to the magnocellular pathways from the amygdala to the visual system (Bocanegra & Zeelenberg, 2009). The amygdala is also active for positive and arousing stimuli, including happy faces. The current study extends past research by presenting happy facial cues just before a gap detection task. Facial stimuli (i.e., happy/neutral faces) were presented in the periphery of the receptive field and quickly followed by a Landolt circle. Half of the participants were asked to detect a temporal gap and half a spatial gap. Response accuracy of gap detection was measured using signal detection theory. Consistent with past research on fearful faces, positive expressions were expected to facilitate temporal gap detection but not spatial gap detection when happy faces were used as cues in gap detection tasks. The current study found no difference in spatial or temporal gap detection given the emotional cue that preceded gap detection on each trial. Positive emotion did not appear to have the same impact as fear on the amygdala and visual areas involving attention.


Applied Behavior Analysis | Personality and Social Contexts