Timing is crucial for the integration of angry facial expressions with motor responses: Investigation of subliminal and supraliminal emotion—action bindings.

Our brain codes perceptual features and actions in a distributed fashion, causing a binding problem: How does the brain recognize that information pertains to a specific object and not to other concurrently processed objects? Hommel (1998) suggested the event file concept: An episodic memory trace binding perceptual features and actions related to an event. By adapting Hommel’s paradigm to emotional faces in a previous series of studies (Coll & Grandjean, 2016), we revealed that emotion could take part in an event file with motor responses when emotion is task relevant and in specific situations when emotion is task irrelevant. In the latter case, we supposed that such integration occurs because of the importance of emotion—action coupling for our survival, even when the task is not specifically related to emotion. To date, emotion—action binding has been studied only with faces presented for 500 ms. In continuation with the hypothesis that humans developed adaptive mechanisms to allow fast responses to emotions, we designed 2 experiments to investigate the influence of the duration of angry and neutral face presentation on binding with motor responses. Results showed that emotion—action integration was possible in a 100-, 250-, and 500-ms presentation, but not when the faces were subliminally (14 ms) or supraliminally (28 ms) displayed. Timing is crucial in emotion—action binding, and although reaction to emotional stimuli might take place rapidly, its integration, as shown by the present studies, seems to require at least 100 ms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)