Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:
Stephan de la Rosa, Laura Fademrecht, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Martin A. Giese, and Cristóbal Curio
People are usually good at using facial expressions to infer other people’s emotions. Motor-based theories propose that viewing a facial expression activates a sensorimotor response that causes the viewer to simulate the expression and thus recognize the associated emotion. These theories predict that sensorimotor and visual processes should lead to the same effects in facial expression recognition. The authors tested this prediction by manipulating whether participants viewed faces with happy or fearful expressions (visual adaptation), executed happy or fearful expressions (motor adaptation), or imagined happy or fearful situations (emotion induction); the participants then judged whether faces generated by morphing happy and fearful expressions to different degrees were happy or fearful. Results showed that when participants had visually adapted to fearful facial expressions, they were more likely to judge the morphed face as happy (i.e., the opposite emotion), and vice versa. By contrast, participants in the motor-adaptation and emotion-induction conditions were more likely to judge the morphed face as showing the same emotion to which they had adapted. These results suggest that, in addition to a motor-based route to facial expression recognition, there is also a vision-based route that does not rely on sensorimotor simulation.
Anna Petrova, Eduardo Navarrete, Caterina Suitner, Simone Sulpizio, Michael Reynolds, Remo Job, and Francesca Peressotti