The effects of context on facial affect recognition

Melissa E. Milanak, Howard Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In a sample of 325 college students, we examined how context influences judgments of facial expressions of emotion, using a newly developed facial affect recognition task in which emotional faces are superimposed upon emotional and neutral contexts. This research used a larger sample size than previous studies, included more emotions, varied the intensity level of the expressed emotion to avoid potential ceiling effects from very easy recognition, did not explicitly direct attention to the context, and aimed to understand how recognition is influenced by non-facial information, both situationally-relevant and situationally-irrelevant. Both accuracy and RT varied as a function of context. For all facial expressions of emotion other than happiness, accuracy increased when the emotion of the face and context matched, and decreased when they mismatched. For all emotions, participants responded faster when the emotion of the face and image matched and slower when they mismatched. Results suggest that the judgment of the facial expression is itself influenced by the contextual information instead of both being judged independently and then combined. Additionally, the results have implications for developing models of facial affect recognition and indicate that there are factors other than the face that can influence facial affect recognition judgments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-568
Number of pages9
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Accuracy
  • Context
  • Facial affect recognition
  • Reaction time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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