August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Misperceived emotion increases the holistic representation of ostensibly neutral faces
Author Affiliations
  • Richard Cook
    Department of Psychology, City University London, UK
  • Katie Gray
    School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, UK
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 727. doi:
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      Richard Cook, Katie Gray; Misperceived emotion increases the holistic representation of ostensibly neutral faces . Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):727.

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

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Sequentially presented face halves are harder to match when target halves are aligned with task-irrelevant distractor halves, than when target and distractor halves are misaligned. This composite face effect is thought to be a product of holistic processing whereby information from disparate facial regions is integrated into a unified percept. Previous findings suggest that the presence of expressed emotion induces strong fusion of upper and lower composite halves. However, it is not always easy to distinguish a stranger's permanent facial shape from their transient facial expressions; whether, for example, an unfamiliar actor is scowling or simply has narrow eyes. The present study sought to determine whether misperceived emotion cues influence the strength of composite interference induced by ostensibly neutral faces, in the absence of expressed emotion. In Experiment 1 we examined the relative ability of fifty distractor halves to bias observers' perception of four target halves. The results indicate reliable inter-distractor differences in the strength of illusory bias induced, that correlate with ratings of misperceived emotion awarded by different participants. In Experiment 2 twenty participants completed a sequential matching composite task. Critically, half of the distractor halves were rated high for misperceived emotion, half were rated low for misperceived emotion. While significant composite effects were seen in both conditions, greater modulation was induced by the distractor halves in the high emotion condition. In Experiment 3 we show that composite effects estimated for twenty observers using a well-known variant of the composite face procedure are also strongly influenced by misperceived emotion. These convergent results suggest that misperceived emotion increases the strength of composite fusion induced by emotionless faces. These results have important implications for our understanding of holistic face processing in typical and atypical populations.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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