Primacy of emotional vs. semantic scene recognition in peripheral vision

Manuel G. Calvo, Pedro Avero, Lauri Nummenmaa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Emotional scenes were presented peripherally (5.2° away from fixation) or foveally (at fixation) for 150 ms. In affective evaluation tasks viewers judged whether a scene was unpleasant or not, or whether it was pleasant or not. In semantic categorisation tasks viewers judged whether a scene involved animals or humans (superordinate-level task), or whether it portrayed females or males (subordinate-level task). The same stimuli were used for the affective and the semantic task. Results indicated that in peripheral vision affective evaluation was less accurate and slower than animal/ human discrimination, and did not show any advantage over gender discrimination. In addition, performance impairment in the peripheral relative to the foveal condition was greater or equivalent for affective than for semantic categorisation. These findings cast doubts on the specialness and the primacy of affective over semantic recognition. The findings are also relevant when considering the role of the subcortical "low route" in emotional processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1358-1375
Number of pages18
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Emotion
  • Peripheral vision
  • Primacy
  • Recognition
  • Scene perception
  • Subcortical

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