Cognitive Processing

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 505–515 | Cite as

Running in fear: an investigation into the dimensional account of emotion in discriminating emotional expressions

  • L. Y. Lo
  • W. O. Li
  • L. P. Lee
  • P. S. Yeung
Research Report


Emotion can be conceptualized by the dimensional account of emotion with the dimensions of valence and arousal. There is little discussion of the difference in discriminability across the dimensions. The present study hypothesized that any pair of emotional expressions differing in the polarity of both valence and arousal dimensions would be easier to distinguish than a pair differing in only one dimension. The results indicate that the difference in the dimensions did not affect participants’ reaction time. Most pairs of emotional expressions, except those involving fear, were similarly discriminative. Reaction times to pairs with a fearful expression were faster than to those without. The fast reaction time to fearful facial expressions underscores the survival value of emotions.


Dimension Discrete Emotion 



This study was funded by Hong Kong Research Grants Council (Grant Number: UGC/FDS15/H21/14).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Human Research Ethics Committee in Hong Kong Shue Yan University and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with non-human animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10339_2018_868_MOESM1_ESM.doc (778 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 778 kb)


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Y. Lo
    • 1
  • W. O. Li
    • 1
  • L. P. Lee
    • 1
  • P. S. Yeung
    • 2
  1. 1.Hong Kong Shue Yan UniversityHong KongPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.The University of Hong KongHong KongPeople’s Republic of China

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