It can be hypothesized that events that are potentially harmful for surviving enjoy a processing priority. A similar priority might occur in the identification of facial expressions. The aim of the present study is to relate the motivational relevance of specific emotional categories and the attentional engagement required for their processing. Subjects were shown pictures of faces (smiling, threatening and neutral) and non-faces (sport/adventure, threat and household objects). Simple reaction times (RTs) to an acoustic tone presented during picture viewing were measured. Overall, RTs were shorter for unpleasant pictures compared to other pictures, thus supporting the idea of a processing priority for threatening information. The shortest RTs were obtained for threatening faces.