Scientific article

The perception of changing emotion expressions

Published inCognition and Emotion, vol. 26, no. 7, p. 1273-1300
Publication date2012

The utility of recognising emotion expressions for coordinating social interactions is well documented, but less is known about how continuously changing emotion displays are perceived. The nonlinear dynamic systems view of emotions suggests that mixed emotion expressions in the middle of displays of changing expressions may be decoded differently depending on the expression origin. Hysteresis is when an impression (e.g., disgust) persists well after changes in facial expressions that favour an alternative impression (e.g., anger). In expression changes based on photographs (Study 1) and avatar images (Studies 2a-c, 3), we found hystereses particularly in changes between emotions that are perceptually similar (e.g., anger-disgust). We also consistently found uncertainty (neither emotion contributing to the mixed expression was perceived), which was more prevalent in expression sequences than in static images. Uncertainty occurred particularly in changes between emotions that are perceptually dissimilar, such as changes between happiness and negative emotions. This suggests that the perceptual similarity of emotion expressions may determine the extent to which hysteresis and uncertainty occur. Both hysteresis and uncertainty effects support our premise that emotion decoding is state dependent, a characteristic of dynamic systems. We propose avenues to test possible underlying mechanisms.

  • Emotion perception
  • Mixed emotions
  • Properemo
Citation (ISO format)
SACHARIN, Vera, SANDER, David, SCHERER, Klaus R. The perception of changing emotion expressions. In: Cognition and Emotion, 2012, vol. 26, n° 7, p. 1273–1300. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2012.656583
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0269-9931

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