It seems obvious that what you see influences what you feel, but what if the opposite were also true? What if how you feel can shape your visual experience? In this experiment, we demonstrate that the affective state of a perceiver influences the contents of visual awareness. Participants received positive, negative, and neutral affect inductions and then completed a series of binocular rivalry trials in which a face (smiling, scowling, or neutral) was presented to one eye and a house to the other. The percepts “competed” for dominance in visual consciousness. We found, as predicted, that all faces (smiling, scowling, and neutral) were dominant for longer when perceivers experienced unpleasant affect compared to when they were in a neutral state (a social vigilance effect), although scowling faces increased their dominance when perceivers felt unpleasant (a relative negative congruence effect). Relatively speaking, smiling faces increased their dominance more when perceivers were experiencing pleasant affect (a positive congruence effect). These findings illustrate that the affective state of a perceiver serves as a context that influences the contents of consciousness.”
Eric Anderson, Erika H. Siegel, Lisa Feldman Barrett. July 2011.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Volume 47, Issue 4, Pages 856-860.