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Megan Willis, Romina Palermo, Darren Burke; Deciding to approach other people: The influence of face and body expressions. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):489. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/9.8.489.
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Emotional expressions play an important role in facilitating our social interactions. While a great deal of research conducted over the past two decades has investigated the brain regions and cognitive mechanisms involved in the recognition of facial expressions, few studies have investigated the way in which emotional expressions are used to guide our social behaviour. This study examined whether emotional expressions are used to determine which people we should approach and which we should avoid. In Experiment 1, we found that faces with happy expressions were rated the most approachable, followed by faces that were neutral, fearful and sad. Faces displaying angry and disgusted expressions were considered the least approachable. In Experiment 2, we then examined whether body expressions would influence approachability in the same manner as facial expressions. Bodies with happy and neutral expressions were rated the most approachable, followed by bodies that were sad and disgusted, with angry and fearful bodies rated the least approachable. In Experiment 3, we investigated approachability ratings given to images of people comprised of both a face and a body. The face and body expressions could be congruent (e.g., angry face and angry body) or incongruent (e.g., happy face and angry body). Consistent with findings from Experiments 1 and 2, people displaying congruent angry face and body expressions were less approachable than people with happy face and body expressions. The approachability judgements given to people comprising incongruent face and body expressions revealed that facial expressions exerted a larger impact on a person's perceived approachability than did their body expressions. These findings demonstrate that both face and body expressions influence judgements of approachability. However, the decision to approach another person is influenced to a greater extent by their facial expression than their body expression.
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