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The non-neutrality of 'neutral' faces: Effect on discriminability of emotional expressions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The main purpose of this study was to examine whether ‘neutral’ facial expressions are ratedas neutral. Facial expressions designated as angry, happy, and neutral were rated on anger,happiness, and emotionality. There were no significant differences in mean rating valuesbetween happy and angry faces on their relevant scales; neutral faces were rated somewhatangry and somewhat sad. Therefore, happy faces differed more from neutral faces than didangry faces. Furthermore, the sensitivity measures reported by Pixton (in press) were adjustedusing the mean difference value (MD) on each of the scale types between each genderemotioncombination and its neutral counterpart. The results showed that the general happysuperiorityand angry-male advantage effects disappeared, while angry-female faces weremore difficult to discriminate. These findings suggest that presumably ‘neutral’ faces are notnecessarily neutral, which ultimately may affect the discriminability of emotional facialexpressions.

Keyword [en]
emotion, face perception, facial expressions, scaling, Euclidean distance, signal detection (perception)
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-57165OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-57165DiVA: diva2:414415
Available from: 2011-05-03 Created: 2011-05-03 Last updated: 2016-06-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Expecting Happy Women, Not Detecting the Angry Ones: Detection and Perceived Intensity of Facial Anger, Happiness, and Emotionality
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Expecting Happy Women, Not Detecting the Angry Ones: Detection and Perceived Intensity of Facial Anger, Happiness, and Emotionality
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Faces provide cues for judgments regarding the emotional state of individuals. Using signal-detection methodology and a standardized stimulus set, the overall aim of the present dissertation was to investigate the detection of emotional facial expressions (i.e., angry and happy faces) with neutral expressions as the nontarget stimuli. Study I showed a happy-superiority effect and a bias towards reporting happiness in female faces. As work progressed, questions arose regarding whether the emotional stimuli were equal with regard to perceived strength of emotion, and whether the neutral faces were perceived as neutral. To further investigate the effect of stimulus quality on the obtained findings, Study II was designed such that the facial stimuli were rated on scales of happy-sad, angry-friendly, and emotionality. Results showed that ‘neutral’ facial expressions were not rated as neutral, and that there was a greater perceived distance between happy and neutral faces than between angry and neutral faces. These results were used to adjust the detectability measures to compensate for the varying distances of the angry and happy stimuli from the neutral stimuli in the emotional space. The happy-superiority effect was weakened, while an angry-female disadvantage remained. However, as these results were based upon different participant groups for detection and emotional rating, Study III was designed to investigate whether the results from Studies I and II could be replicated in a design where the same participants performed both tasks. Again, the results showed the non-neutrality of ‘neutral’ expressions and that happiness was more easily detected than anger, as shown in general emotion as well as specific emotion detection. Taken together, the overall results of the present dissertation demonstrate a happy-superiority effect that was greater for female than male faces, that angry-female faces were the most difficult to detect, and a bias to report female faces as happy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2011. 79 p.
Keyword
Signal Detection (Perception), Happiness, Anger, Face Perception, Facial Expressions, Superiority Effects, Gender Differences, Response Bias, Scaling, Euclidean Distance
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-57167 (URN)978-91-7447-304-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-06-10, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, Sweden, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: In press. Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript.Available from: 2011-05-12 Created: 2011-05-03 Last updated: 2011-10-20Bibliographically approved

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