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

Neuroreport. 2011 Oct 5;22(14):706-10. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32834a89ad.


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 260 ms 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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Young Adult