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Oxytocin Reduces Face Processing Time but Leaves Recognition Accuracy and Eye-Gaze Unaffected

  • Kelly Hubble (a1), Katie Daughters (a1), Antony S.R. Manstead (a1), Aled Rees (a2), Anita Thapar (a3) and Stephanie H.M. van Goozen (a1)...


Objectives: Previous studies have found that oxytocin (OXT) can improve the recognition of emotional facial expressions; it has been proposed that this effect is mediated by an increase in attention to the eye-region of faces. Nevertheless, evidence in support of this claim is inconsistent, and few studies have directly tested the effect of oxytocin on emotion recognition via altered eye-gaze Methods: In a double-blind, within-subjects, randomized control experiment, 40 healthy male participants received 24 IU intranasal OXT and placebo in two identical experimental sessions separated by a 2-week interval. Visual attention to the eye-region was assessed on both occasions while participants completed a static facial emotion recognition task using medium intensity facial expressions. Results: Although OXT had no effect on emotion recognition accuracy, recognition performance was improved because face processing was faster across emotions under the influence of OXT. This effect was marginally significant (p<.06). Consistent with a previous study using dynamic stimuli, OXT had no effect on eye-gaze patterns when viewing static emotional faces and this was not related to recognition accuracy or face processing time. Conclusions: These findings suggest that OXT-induced enhanced facial emotion recognition is not necessarily mediated by an increase in attention to the eye-region of faces, as previously assumed. We discuss several methodological issues which may explain discrepant findings and suggest the effect of OXT on visual attention may differ depending on task requirements. (JINS, 2017, 23, 23–33)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephanie van Goozen, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT. E-mail:


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Oxytocin Reduces Face Processing Time but Leaves Recognition Accuracy and Eye-Gaze Unaffected

  • Kelly Hubble (a1), Katie Daughters (a1), Antony S.R. Manstead (a1), Aled Rees (a2), Anita Thapar (a3) and Stephanie H.M. van Goozen (a1)...


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