How occupational status influences the processing of faces: an EEG study

TitleHow occupational status influences the processing of faces: an EEG study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Année de publication2018
AuthorsBreton, A., Ligneul R., Jerbi K., George N., Baudouin J. Yves, & Van der Henst J-B.
VolumeAvailable online 19 September 2018
Date Published09/2018
Call Numberoai:HAL:hal-01889353v1

This study examines the influence of social hierarchy on the neural electrophysiological responses to faces. In contrast with earlier EEG studies that typically manipulate social rank through competitive situations, we implemented hierarchy through occupational status and thus contrasted faces associated with high- vs. low-status (e.g. lawyer vs. waiter). Since social hierarchies are largely intertwined with gender, both female and male faces were used as stimuli, and both female and male participants were tested. The procedure consisted in presenting a status label before the face it was associated with. The analyses focused mainly on two components that have been shown to be modulated by competitive hierarchies and other social contexts, namely the N170 and the Late Positive Potential (LPP). The results indicated that gender, but not status, modulated the N170 amplitude. Moreover, high-status faces elicited larger LPP amplitude than low-status faces but this difference was driven by female participants. This gender effect is discussed in line with research showing that women and men are sensitive to different kinds of hierarchy. Methodological differences are considered to account for the discrepancy between studies that find an effect of hierarchy on the N170 and those that do not.