Identity and expression processing during classical conditioning with faces.Psychophysiology. 2018 10; 55(10):e13203.P
In classical conditioning, conditioned responses (CRs) to aversively paired (CS+) relative to unpaired (CS-) face images are often interpreted in terms of the specific individual displayed in the CS + face image having adopted an aversive emotional connotation. This interpretation requires conditioning to rely on an association between CS + face identity and the occurrence of the aversive event (UCS). Here, we tested this requirement assuming that if an association between CS + face identity and UCS occurrence is established, CRs to originally conditioned face images should transfer to novel images of same-identity faces. Forty-eight participants underwent MultiCS conditioning with eight neutral faces as CSs and electric shock as UCS. Central, peripheral, evaluative, and behavioral CRs signaled successful emotional learning (as reported in Pastor et al., 2015). Behavioral and EEG responses of consecutive passive viewing showed enhanced reactions to novel angry and happy expressions of previously shocked CS + versus nonshocked CS- identities, indicating successful CR transfer within the dimension of face identity. Investigating the nature of CR transfer, EEG revealed an interaction of identity and expression information during face processing that followed emotional congruency (i.e., stronger reactions to congruent angry CS + and happy CS- vs. incongruent angry CS- and happy CS + compounds). While correlates of transfer appeared in late and midlatency time intervals, the congruency interaction became significant within the first 100 ms of face processing. Our results suggest conditioning to rely on an association of UCS occurrence with CS + identity and point to fast dynamic interrelations between identity and expression processing.