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Beyond Face Value: Does Involuntary Emotional Anticipation Shape the Perception of Dynamic Facial Expressions?

Palumbo, L; Jellema, Tjeerd


L Palumbo


Emotional facial expressions are immediate indicators of the affective dispositions of others. Recently it has been shown thatearly stages of social perception can already be influenced by (implicit) attributions made by the observer about the agent'smental state and intentions. In the current study possible mechanisms underpinning distortions in the perception ofdynamic, ecologically-valid, facial expressions were explored. In four experiments we examined to what extent basicperceptual processes such as contrast/context effects, adaptation and representational momentum underpinned theperceptual distortions, and to what extent ‘emotional anticipation', i.e. the involuntary anticipation of the other's emotionalstate of mind on the basis of the immediate perceptual history, might have played a role. Neutral facial expressionsdisplayed at the end of short video-clips, in which an initial facial expression of joy or anger gradually morphed into a neutralexpression, were misjudged as being slightly angry or slightly happy, respectively (Experiment 1). This response biasdisappeared when the actor's identity changed in the final neutral expression (Experiment 2). Videos depicting neutral-tojoy-to-neutral and neutral-to-anger-to-neutral sequences again produced biases but in opposite direction (Experiment 3).The bias survived insertion of a 400 ms blank (Experiment 4). These results suggested that the perceptual distortions werenot caused by any of the low-level perceptual mechanisms (adaptation, representational momentum and contrast effects).We speculate that especially when presented with dynamic, facial expressions, perceptual distortions occur that reflect‘emotional anticipation' (a low-level mindreading mechanism), which overrules low-level visual mechanisms. Underpinningneural mechanisms are discussed in relation to the current debate on action and emotion understanding.


Palumbo, L., & Jellema, T. (2013). Beyond Face Value: Does Involuntary Emotional Anticipation Shape the Perception of Dynamic Facial Expressions?. PLoS ONE, 8(2), Article e56003.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 4, 2013
Online Publication Date Feb 11, 2013
Publication Date Dec 31, 2013
Deposit Date May 15, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 27, 2022
Journal PLoS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 2
Article Number e56003
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Published article (615 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2013 Palumbo, Jellema. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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