1996 volume 25(9) pages 1091 – 1108

Cite as:
Purcell D G, Stewart A L, Skov R B, 1996, "It takes a confounded face to pop out of a crowd" Perception 25(9) 1091 – 1108

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It takes a confounded face to pop out of a crowd

Dean G Purcell, Alan L Stewart, Richard B Skov

Received 28 February 1996, in revised form 28 April 1996

Abstract. It is widely reported that a picture of an angry face seems to figuratively pop out of an array of happy faces, although all of these reports are based on a single experiment by Hansen and Hansen. Pop out, when it occurs, indicates that an observer has located the target by means of a preattentive, parallel search. Hansen and Hansen concluded that it was the affect displayed by the face which caused it to pop out from its surrounding distracters. However, Hansen and Hansen's angry faces contained extraneous dark areas which were introduced when they transformed Ekman and Friesen's photographs of angry and happy faces into black-on-white sketches. When the original artifact-free gray-scaled versions of angry and happy faces were used no evidence for popout was found. All target faces were found during a serial, self-terminating search regardless of their expression. The angry face in Hansen and Hansen's experiments may have popped out from a crowd of happy faces because of a contrast artifact inadvertently introduced when they created their stimuli.

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