Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Tim Curran

Second Advisor

Richard Olson

Third Advisor

Valerie Otero


The face in the crowd paradigm refers to a particular visual search task in which participants are asked to identify target facial expressions in a crowd of distractors. Previous research in this vein has suggested performance is enhanced for angry faces, an anger-superiority effect. There is however disagreement in many of these findings, and this disagreement may partly be explained by a failure to recognize the role of observer mood, response bias, and discrimination ability in the paradigm. The present study used a face in the crowd visual search task and assessed participant mood state using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. We hypothesized that mood state would be congruent to facial expressions most efficiently perceived. Multivariate analyses of variance showed instead that positive mood is associated with faster response times in emotional crowds, and negative mood is associated with faster response times in neutral crowds. A strong “no target present” response bias was also associated with neutral crowds, and this response was exacerbated by negative mood. These results suggest that mood does play an important role in visual search, one that may explain contradictory findings in the previous literature.