Differential modulations of reward expectation on implicit facial emotion processing: ERP evidence.Psychophysiology. 2019 03; 56(3):e13304.P
Implicit emotional processing refers to the preferential processing of emotional content even if it is task irrelevant. Given that motivation enhances executive control by biasing attentional resources toward target stimuli, here we investigated the effects of reward expectation on implicit facial emotional processing in two experiments using ERPs. A precue signaling additional monetary reward for fast and accurate response for the upcoming trial (incentive condition; relative to a cue indicating no such additional reward, i.e., nonincentive condition) was followed by the presentation of a happy, angry, or neutral face. Participants had to determine the gender of the face in Experiment 1 and decide whether a number superimposed on the face was even or odd in Experiment 2. In both experiments, incentive cues elicited larger P3 and contingent negative variation responses, and the targets following incentive cues elicited more positive-going ERPs (200-700 ms), compared with the nonincentive condition. Importantly, the N2 responses (200-280 ms) to the target exhibited differential patterns of Reward × Emotion interaction: relative to the nonincentive condition, the N2 amplitude differences between emotional (i.e., happy and/or angry) and neutral faces increased in the incentive condition in Experiment 1, but diminished in Experiment 2. These results indicate that reward expectation can differentially modulate implicit processing of facial expressions, with increased sensitivity to emotions when the processing of whole faces is required, but with reduced sensitivity when the processing of faces is distractive. This study enriches the evidence for interactions between reward-related executive control and implicit emotional processing.