Do facially disfiguring features influence attention and perception of faces?:Evidence from an antisaccade task


Facial disfigurements can influence how observers attend to and interact with the person, leading to disease-avoidance behaviour and emotions (disgust, threat, fear for contagion). However, it is unclear whether this behaviour is reflected in the effect of the facial stigma on attention and perceptual encoding of facial information. We addressed this question by measuring, in a mixed antisaccade task, observers' speed and accuracy of orienting of visual attention towards or away from peripherally presented upright and inverted unfamiliar faces that had either a realistic looking disease-signalling feature (a skin discolouration), a non-disease-signalling control feature, or no added feature. The presence of a disfiguring or control feature did not influence the orienting of attention (in terms of saccadic latency) towards upright faces, suggesting that avoidance responses towards facial stigma do not occur during covert attention. However, disfiguring and control features significantly reduced the effect of face inversion on saccadic latency, thus suggesting an impact on the holistic processing of facial information. The implications of these findings for the encoding and appraisal of facial disfigurements are discussed.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences > Clinical and Systems Neuroscience
College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Optometry > Centre for Vision and Hearing Research
College of Health & Life Sciences
Additional Information: © Experimental Psychology Society 2021. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Uncontrolled Keywords: face inversion,antisaccades,avoidance,attention,facial disfigurements
Publication ISSN: 1747-0226
Last Modified: 14 May 2024 07:27
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2021 09:51
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Related URLs: https://journal ... 470218211041621 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2022-05-01
Published Online Date: 2021-08-13
Accepted Date: 2021-07-29
Authors: Boutsen, Luc (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-1212-8912)
Pearson, Nathan
Jüttner, Martin (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-3486-7975)



Version: Accepted Version

Access Restriction: Restricted to Repository staff only


Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial

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