Original Paper

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 192-201

First online:

Is there an advantage for recognizing multi-modal emotional stimuli?

  • Silke PaulmannAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Essex Email author 
  • , Marc D. PellAffiliated withSchool of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University

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Emotions can be recognized whether conveyed by facial expressions, linguistic cues (semantics), or prosody (voice tone). However, few studies have empirically documented the extent to which multi-modal emotion perception differs from uni-modal emotion perception. Here, we tested whether emotion recognition is more accurate for multi-modal stimuli by presenting stimuli with different combinations of facial, semantic, and prosodic cues. Participants judged the emotion conveyed by short utterances in six channel conditions. Results indicated that emotion recognition is significantly better in response to multi-modal versus uni-modal stimuli. When stimuli contained only one emotional channel, recognition tended to be higher in the visual modality (i.e., facial expressions, semantic information conveyed by text) than in the auditory modality (prosody), although this pattern was not uniform across emotion categories. The advantage for multi-modal recognition may reflect the automatic integration of congruent emotional information across channels which enhances the accessibility of emotion-related knowledge in memory.


Emotional prosody Emotional semantics Emotional facial expressions