Nature and the City: Audiovisual interactions in pleasantness and psychophysiological reactions
The presence of natural elements in the urban environment improves wellbeing. Comparisons of different psychophysiological reactions to both auditory and visual perceptions of urban environments are employed as a method for shedding light on the mechanisms involved in audiovisual interaction, by which visual context influences auditory perception, and vice versa. Combining psychophysical and physiological methodologies is likely to improve our understanding of the perceptual consequences of variations in the presence of nature in the city. In the present study, 61 participants, mainly students, were exposed to urban soundscapes accompanied by street scenes. Audio excerpts of bird song or road traffic were paired with images with or without vegetation. Half of the participants (n = 30) were asked to judge the auditory pleasantness after each audiovisual presentation, whereas the other half (n = 31) judged the visual pleasantness of the scene. Heart rate, pupil area, gaze fixations and electromyography of the eyebrow muscle (corrugator supercilii) were concurrently recorded.
We demonstrated a strong perceptual audiovisual interaction: auditory pleasantness was higher when accompanied by a natural visual context, and visual pleasantness was higher when accompanied by natural sounds. Electromyography and heart rate were particularly sensitive to the presence of nature in the soundscapes, whereas gaze behavior discriminated only visual nature elements. The natural sounds were associated with lower heart rate and less corrugator supercilii electromyographic activity, whereas natural images were associated with slower gaze behavior. Pupil area was sensitive to both auditory and visual stimulations. The pupil was relatively constricted by all natural stimuli and discriminated different unpleasant traffic noise samples and the modulation of visual pleasantness by these sounds. This suggests a distinctive role of arousal level in the modulation of pupil reactions, which appear well suited to study audiovisual interactions and the perceptual effects of natural elements in urban environments.
A community-sourced glossary of open scholarship terms
Open scholarship has transformed research, and introduced a host of new terms in the lexicon of researchers. The ‘Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Teaching’ (FORRT) community presents a crowdsourced glossary of open scholarship terms to facilitate education and effective communication between experts and newcomers.
Differences in cortical processing of facial emotions in broader autism phenotype
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous condition that affects face perception. Evidence shows that there are differences in face perception associated with the processing of low spatial frequency (LSF) and high spatial frequency (HSF) of visual stimuli between non-symptomatic relatives of individuals with autism (broader autism phenotype, BAP) and typically developing individuals. However, the neural mechanisms involved in these differences are not fully understood. Here we tested whether face-sensitive event related potentials could serve as neuronal markers of differential spatial frequency processing, and whether these potentials could differentiate non-symptomatic parents of children with autism (pASD) from parents of typically developing children (pTD). To this end, we performed electroencephalographic recordings of both groups of parents while they had to recognize emotions of face pictures composed of the same or different emotions (happiness or anger) presented in different spatial frequencies. We found no significant differences in the accuracy between groups but lower amplitude modulation in the Late Positive Potential activity in pASD. Source analysis showed a difference in the right posterior part of the superior temporal region that correlated with ASD symptomatology of the child. These results reveal differences in brain processing of recognition of facial emotion in BAP that could be a precursor of ASD.
When the Sad Past Is Left: The Mental Metaphors Between Time, Valence, and Space
A mental metaphor is a strategy that consists of completing the representation of a concept with structural components of a correlating concept. Three issues were addressed here to deepen our understanding of this mechanism: the use of mental metaphors between abstract concepts, the simultaneous activation of multiple mental metaphors and the importance of the focus of attention on the relevant dimensions of a mental metaphor. In two experiments, participants made temporal or valence judgments (with their left or right hand) on verbs with a negative or positive meaning and conjugated in the past or future form, allowing for the simultaneous activation of the “time is space”, “valence is space,” and “time is valence” mental metaphors. Left-past/right-future and left-negative/right-positive congruency effects were found, and these effects were greater in the temporal and valence judgment tasks, respectively, demonstrating the importance of attentional cuing. Simultaneously, a congruency effect between the abstract concepts of time and valence (past-negative/future-positive) was observed, revealing that a mental metaphor can occur between abstract concepts and that multiple metaphors can be processed simultaneously. These results are discussed in terms of different theories within the field of mental metaphors.
Evidence of Rapid Modulation by Social Information of Subjective, Physiological, and Neural Responses to Emotional Expressions
Recent research suggests that conceptual or emotional factors could influence the perceptual processing of stimuli. In this article, we aimed to evaluate the effect of social information (positive, negative, or no information related to the character of the target) on subjective (perceived and felt valence and arousal), physiological (facial mimicry) as well as on neural (P100 and N170) responses to dynamic emotional facial expressions (EFE) that varied from neutral to one of the six basic emotions. Across three studies, the results showed reduced ratings of valence and arousal of EFE associated with incongruent social information (Study 1), increased electromyographical responses (Study 2), and significant modulation of P100 and N170 components (Study 3) when EFE were associated with social (positive and negative) information (vs. no information). These studies revealed that positive or negative social information reduces subjective responses to incongruent EFE and produces a similar neural and physiological boost of the early perceptual processing of EFE irrespective of their congruency. In conclusion, the article suggests that the presence of positive or negative social context modulates early physiological and neural activity preceding subsequent behavior.
How does information from low and high spatial frequencies interact during scene categorization?
Current models of visual perception suggest that, during scene categorization, low spatial frequencies (LSF) are rapidly processed and activate plausible interpretations of visual input. This coarse analysis would be used to guide subsequent processing of high spatial frequencies (HSF). The present study aimed to further examine how information from LSF and HSF interact and influence each other during scene categorization. In a first experimental session, participants had to categorize LSF and HSF filtered scenes belonging to two different semantic categories (artificial vs. natural). In a second experimental session, we used hybrid scenes as stimuli made by combining LSF and HSF from two different scenes which were semantically similar or dissimilar. Half of the participants categorized LSF scenes in hybrids, and the other half categorized HSF scenes in hybrids. Stimuli were presented for 30 or 100 ms. Session 1 results showed better performance for LSF than HSF scene categorization. Session 2 scene categorization was faster when participants attended and categorized LSF than HSF scene in hybrids. The semantic interference of a semantically dissimilar HSF scene on LSF scene categorization was greater than the semantic interference of a semantically dissimilar LSF scene on HSF scene categorization, irrespective of exposure duration. These results suggest a LSF advantage for scene categorization, and highlight the prominent role of HSF information when there is uncertainty about the visual stimulus, in order to disentangle between alternative interpretations.