Context modulation of facial emotion perception differed by individual difference

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Background: Certain facial configurations are believed to be associated with distinct affective meanings (i.e. basic facial expressions), and such associations are common across cultures (i.e. universality of facial expressions). However, recently, many studies suggest that various types of contextual information, rather than facial configuration itself, are important factor for facial emotion perception. Methodology/Principal Findings: To examine systematically how contextual information influences individuals' facial emotion perception, the present study estimated direct observers' perceptual thresholds for detecting negative facial expressions via a forced-choice psychophysical procedure using faces embedded in various emotional contexts. We additionally measured the individual differences in affective information-processing tendency (BIS/BAS) as a possible factor that may determine the extent to which contextual information on facial emotion perception is used. It was found that contextual information influenced observers' perceptual thresholds for facial emotion. Importantly, individuals' affective-information tendencies modulated the extent to which they incorporated context information into their facial emotion perceptions. Conclusions/Significance: The findings of this study suggest that facial emotion perception not only depends on facial configuration, but the context in which the face appears as well. This contextual influence appeared differently with individual's characteristics of information processing. In summary, we conclude that individual character traits, as well as facial configuration and the context in which a face appears, need to be taken into consideration regarding facial emotional perception. © 2012 Lee et al.




Lee, T. H., Choi, J. S., & Cho, Y. S. (2012). Context modulation of facial emotion perception differed by individual difference. PLoS ONE, 7(3).

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