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Implicit evidence on the dissociation of identity and emotion recognition

Abstract

Recognition of identity and of emotional facial expressions of individuals are both based on processing of the human face. While most studies show these abilities to be dissociated, some others find evidence of a connection. One possible explanation for these contradictory results comes from neurological evidence, which points to identity recognition being mostly based on holistic processing, while emotion recognition seems to be based on both an explicit, fine-grained process, and an implicit, mostly-holistic one. Our main hypothesis, that would explain the contradictory findings, is that holistic implicit emotion recognition, specifically, would be related to identity recognition, while explicit emotion recognition would be a process separate to identity recognition. To test this hypothesis, we employed an experimental paradigm in which spatial frequencies of visual stimuli are manipulated so that automatic, holistic-based, implicit emotion recognition influences perceived friendliness of unfamiliar faces. We predicted the effect to be related to identity recognition ability, since they both require holistic face processing. After a successful replication study, we employed the paradigm with 140 participants, measuring also identity recognition ability and explicit emotion recognition ability. Results showed that the effect is not moderated by these two variables (p = .807 and .373, respectively), suggesting that the independence of identity and emotion recognition holds even when considering, specifically, implicit emotion recognition.

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Availability of data and material

Data are available upon request to the authors.

Code availability

R codes are included in the supplemental materials.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Actors’ gender was balanced. As an exploratory analysis, we checked whether actor gender was associated with perceived friendliness, and we found no significant results. As this was not the focus of the study, we did not include this variable in the models.

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Passarelli, M., Masini, M., Chiorri, C. et al. Implicit evidence on the dissociation of identity and emotion recognition. Cogn Process (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10339-021-01061-2

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Keywords

  • Face processing
  • Identity recognition
  • Emotion recognition
  • Holistic processing
  • Implicit recognition