Graduation Date

Fall 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Psychology, option Academic Research

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Amanda Hahn

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Amber Gaffney

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Dr. Brandilynn Villarreal

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



The ability to recognize emotional expressions has important implications for survival and cooperation. Failing to recognize emotions indicative of some form of threat (anger, fear, disgust) may be particularly costly given these emotional expressions communicate a potential source of danger in the environment. Previous studies have shown that people tend to recognize threatening emotions faster and more accurately than non-threatening emotions. Infantile characteristics (kindchenschema) readily capture the attention of adults and have been shown to influence a variety of behaviors associated with caretaking; viewing cute stimuli increases behavioral carefulness on various visual and motor tasks. The current study sought to determine if viewing cute stimuli increases sensitivity to emotional expressions, particularly those related to threat, as the ability to recognize emotional displays has important implications for caretaking. In a sample of 43 women, viewing cute stimuli enhanced sensitivity to emotional expressions generally, but was not specific to threat-relevant emotions. This effect of priming was not apparent in a sample including men (n=6) and non-binary (n=3) participants. These results suggest that priming a caretaking mentality may enhance emotional sensitivity in addition to behavioral carefulness, at least in women.

Citation Style