Like many other primates, humans place a high premium on social information transmission and processing. One important aspect of this information concerns the emotional state of other individuals, conveyed by distinct visual cues such as facial expressions, overt actions, or by cues extracted from the situational context. A rich body of theoretical and empirical work has demonstrated that these socioemotional cues are processed by the human visual system in a prioritized fashion, in the service of optimizing social behavior. Furthermore, socioemotional perception is highly dependent on situational contexts and previous experience. Here, we review current issues in this area of research and discuss the utility of the steady-state visual evoked potential (ssVEP) technique for addressing key empirical questions. Methodological advantages and caveats are discussed with particular regard to quantifying time-varying competition among multiple perceptual objects, trial-by-trial analysis of visual cortical activation, functional connectivity, and the control of low-level stimulus features. Studies on facial expression and emotional scene processing are summarized, with an emphasis on viewing faces and other social cues in emotional contexts, or when competing with each other. Further, because the ssVEP technique can be readily accommodated to studying the viewing of complex scenes with multiple elements, it enables researchers to advance theoretical models of socioemotional perception, based on complex, quasinaturalistic viewing situations.

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Psychophysiology: an international journal
Department of Psychology

Wieser, M., Miskovic, V. (Vladimir), & Keil, A. (Andreas). (2016). Steady-state visual evoked potentials as a research tool in social affective neuroscience. Psychophysiology: an international journal (Vol. 53, pp. 1763–1775). doi:10.1111/psyp.12768