Boldness psychopathic traits predict reduced gaze toward fearful eyes in men with a history of violence

The successful decoding of different emotional expressions depends on visual attention toward emotionally salient aspects of the face, most notably the eyes and the mouth (Eisenbarth & Alpers, 2011Smith, Cottrell, Gosselin, & Schyns, 2005Wells et al., 2016). The precise pattern of eye movements is thought to be dependent upon the emotion expressed, and attention is often guided toward the most diagnostic facial features for a given emotion (e.g., the widened eye whites of fearful expressions) (Schurgin et al., 2014Smith et al., 2005Wells et al., 2016). While attention to these regions is likely to be modified by conscious control, even briefly presented faces trigger very early, potentially reflexive eye movements toward diagnostic regions of the face (Gamer & Büchel, 2009Scheller, Büchel, & Gamer, 2012). Again, reflexive eye movements in these studies were more commonly toward the eyes than away from the eyes, and varied with the type of expression. Psychopathy related impairments in emotion recognition may therefore reflect reduced attention to the eye region of emotional faces.

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