Psychological Research

, Volume 69, Issue 1–2, pp 22–29 | Cite as

Positive facial expressions are recognized faster than negative facial expressions, but why?

  • Jukka M. LeppänenEmail author
  • Jari K. Hietanen
Original Article


Three experiments examined the recognition speed advantage for happy faces. The results replicated earlier findings by showing that positive (happy) facial expressions were recognized faster than negative (disgusted or sad) facial expressions (Experiments 1 and 2). In addition, the results showed that this effect was evident even when low-level physical differences between positive and negative faces were controlled by using schematic faces (Experiment 2), and that the effect was not attributable to an artifact arising from facilitated recognition of a single feature in the happy faces (up-turned mouth line, Experiment 3). Together, these results suggest that the happy face advantage may reflect a higher-level asymmetry in the recognition and categorization of emotionally positive and negative signals.


Facial Expression Recognition Time Happy Face Negative Facial Expression Emotional Neutrality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Hannele Peuhu for her help with data collection. The study was supported by the Finnish Psychological Society (Anna S. Elonen grant) and the Academy of Finland (project # 50898).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Information Processing LaboratoryDepartment of PsychologyUniversity of TampereFinland

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