Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is considered a public health issue and affects millions of people worldwide. While individuals with TBI suffer from a variety of motor and cognitive deficits, this project focused on the social cognitive problems that individuals with TBI experience, specifically facial affect recognition. The primary goal of this study was to better understand facial affect recognition and how it is affected by attention abilities in individuals with TBI. In Experiment 1, we examined how facial affect recognition is associated with attentional abilities using correlational analyses in a sample of 28 participants. In Experiment 2, which was divided into 2 conditions, using a smaller sample size, we examined whether individuals with TBI process emotional faces fundamentally differently than healthy individuals using eye-tracking. Additionally in Experiment 2, we examined whether attentional abilities affected the way individuals with TBI process emotional faces using eye-tracking. In Condition 2A, participants had full attention in which they decided on what emotion a face was displaying. The hypothesis for Condition 2A was that TBI participants would perform worse on a facial affect recognition task than healthy controls (HC) and that gaze patterns would differ between TBI individuals and healthy controls. In Condition 2B, participants had divided attention as they also performed a distractor task while selecting what emotion was being displayed. The hypothesis for Condition 2B was both groups of participants would have a relatively worse performance on a facial affect recognition task when their attention was divided (compared to undivided), but TBI participants’ performance on the facial affect recognition task would decrease more significantly than healthy controls. Also in this condition, the hypothesis was that gaze patterns would differ between TBI individuals and healthy controls. Results for Experiment 1 showed a relationship between a measure of facial affect recognition abilities and two measures of attention. In Experiment 2, Condition 2A and 2B, we found significant differences in performance on the facial affect recognition task between TBI and HC participants as TBI participants were less accurate on correctly identifying the emotions that were displayed on faces compared to HC participants. In Condition 2A, we found a significant difference in the amount of total fixations in critical areas of the face that TBI and HC participants made while viewing an emotional face when they had full attention. In Experiment 2, Condition 2A and 2B, we found a significant difference in the amount of time TBI and HC participants viewed (dwelled on) critical areas of an emotional face as TBI participants viewed critical areas of the face for less time compared to HC participants. This research is important because it may serve as an example of how gaze patterns differ between TBI individuals and healthy individuals and be used to plan better treatments for individuals with TBI that suffer from impaired facial affect recognition abilities.
DeAngelis, Joseph Walter, "An Eye-Tracking Investigation of Facial Affect Recognition in Traumatic Brain Injury and Healthy Individuals" (2018). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 126.