Involuntary processing of social dominance cues from bimodal face-voice displays

Cognition and Emotion 32 (1):1-11 (2018)
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Abstract

Social-rank cues communicate social status or social power within and between groups. Information about social-rank is fluently processed in both visual and auditory modalities. So far, the investigation on the processing of social-rank cues has been limited to studies in which information from a single modality was assessed or manipulated. Yet, in everyday communication, multiple information channels are used to express and understand social-rank. We sought to examine the voluntary nature of processing of facial and vocal signals of social-rank using a cross-modal Stroop task. In two experiments, participants were presented with face-voice pairs that were either congruent or incongruent in social-rank. Participants’ task was to label face social dominance while ignoring the voice, or label voice social dominance while ignoring the face. In both experiments, we found that face-voice incongruent stimuli were processed more slowly and less accurately than were the congruent stimuli in the face-attend and the voice-attend tasks, exhibiting classical Stroop-like effects. These findings are consistent with the functioning of a social-rank bio-behavioural system which consistently and automatically monitors one’s social standing in relation to others and uses that information to guide behaviour.

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