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Cindy Bukach, Rebecca Nguyen, Tessa Rinnen, Pascaline Munezero, Peter Kade, Ana Deutsch; I Can Read You Like a Book: Expression Recognition is Positively Correlated with the Fantasy Empathy Subscale.. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):935. doi: 10.1167/18.10.935.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
High empathy is associated with better recognition of facial expressions (Chikovani et al., 2015). Here we investigate what aspects of empathy are related to improvement in expression recognition, and whether empathy also modulates facial identification. Participants completed an expression recognition task in which they viewed dynamic facial stimuli that morphed from neutral to an emotion (happy, sad, angry, or fearful). Participants stopped each morphing video as soon as they could identify the emotion, then completed a 2-alternative forced choice recognition task. Participants also completed an identity recognition task in which they viewed morph videos from an average to an individual model, then were given an 8-alternative forced choice task. Participants also completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) that measures four empathy subscales: perspective taking (adopting the psychological viewpoint of others), fantasy (tendency to imagine the feelings and actions of fictitious characters), empathic concern (other-oriented feelings of sympathy and concern) and personal distress (self-oriented feelings of anxiety). Preliminary results (N=38) indicate that although expression recognition is positively correlated with identification accuracy (r = .415, p = .01), high levels of empathy were associated with expression but not identity recognition. Specifically, the fantasy and empathic concern subscales were positively correlated with expression recognition accuracy (r = .391, p = .015 and r = .341, p = .036 respectively). High scores on these scales improved recognition of fear, happiness, and anger, but not sadness. When entered in a regression model with anxiety and depression scales, only identity recognition accuracy and fantasy subscale significantly predicted expression recognition (β = .385 and .359, p's = .010 and .016, respectively). These results indicate that empathy affects expression-specific mechanisms. One possible explanation is that empathizing with the feelings of fictional characters and the ability to recognize emotional expressions of strangers both may rely on simulation of facial movements.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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