Julian Rellecke, Arda Bakirtas, Werner Sommer and Annekathrin Schacht

Automaticity in attractive face processing: brain potentials from a dual task.

NeuroReport: For Rapid Communication of Neuroscience Research

Attractive faces have a special status, possibly because of evolutionary reasons. We assessed the automaticity of facial attractiveness processing in a dual-task paradigm manipulating the availability of cognitive resources to face processing by a primary tone task presented at varying stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). In event-related brain potentials, attractive relative to neutral faces induced an increased posterior negativity from 260ms onwards indicating enhanced stimulus encoding at the cortical level. Interestingly, effects of attractive faces on event-related brain potentials were most pronounced at high temporal overlap with the primary task (short stimulus onset asynchrony). This indicates that a shortage of cognitive resources may enhance the processing of attractive faces, revealing hard-wired processing biases of the human information processing system for evolutionarily prepared stimuli.