July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
Holistic and analytic processing of emotional expression in composite faces depends on the combination of expressions
Author Affiliations
  • Janice Murray
    Department of Psychology, University of Otago
  • Nicole Campbell
    Department of Psychology, University of Otago
  • James Tanaka
    Department of Psychology, University of Victoria
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 101. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.101
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      Janice Murray, Nicole Campbell, James Tanaka; Holistic and analytic processing of emotional expression in composite faces depends on the combination of expressions. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):101. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.101.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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There are conflicting findings in the literature as to whether facial expressions are perceived holistically or as a mixture of holistic and analytic processes. Here, we further investigated holistic and analytic recognition of facial emotion using composite faces constructed such that the top and bottom halves showed congruent expressions (e.g., fear top, fear bottom) or incongruent expressions (e.g., fear top, disgust bottom). Misaligned versions were created by shifting the lower half of the face until the nose in the bottom half was below the left ear in the top half. In the first two experiments, participants identified the expression cued in the top or bottom half of a face. The target region was alternated across four, 64-trial blocks in which congruency, alignment and expression were within-subjects factors. In Experiment 1, we found that alignment impaired the recognition of disgust in the bottom half when combined with fear in the top half. In contrast, in the same pairing, recognition of fear in the top half was not impaired by alignment. In Experiment 2, alignment impaired recognition of fear (top half) when combined with happiness. Recognition of happiness (bottom half) was impaired in the misaligned condition. Alignment had no effect on recognition of the top or bottom halves of congruent expressions in either experiment. In Experiment 3, participants rated the aligned top-half fear and bottom-half disgust faces as similar to congruent fear faces. The aligned top-half fear and bottom-half happy faces were rated as equally happy as congruent happy faces. Overall, these results suggest that depending on the emotions, facial expressions are perceived both holistically and analytically. When the holistic impression of expressions conflicts with local expression information, interference effects result. In the absence of conflict, expression recognition can proceed in a parts-based, analytic manner with little influence from holistic information.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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