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Type of Task Instruction Enhances the Role of Face and Context in Emotion Perception

Abstract

The role of face and context in emotion perception was investigated by manipulating features relevant to the stimuli and to the observer. A nested-stimulus design was used, with subjects nested under stimulus item (an encoder’s facial expression or a written emotion-eliciting scenario presented alone or in an incongruent pair) and type of task instruction (judgment of encoder’s expressed or felt emotion). Subjects, using one type of task instruction, completed a decoding task in which they viewed a facial expression, a written scenario, or a facial expression paired with an emotion-incongruent scenario. Type of task instruction was intended to alter subjects’ perception by directing attention to favor face information (judgment of expressed emotion) or context information (judgment of felt emotion). Then subjects selected the predominant emotion and indicated the intensity of various emotions they perceived the encoder to be expressing or feeling. Judgments were examined for target emotion match to face and/or context using a by-stimulus analysis. The results suggest that when an encoder’s facial expression is discordant with the emotion-eliciting event, subjects will favor facial information when judging what the encoder is expressing, whereas they will favor context information when judging what the encoder is feeling. When face or context was seen alone, type of task instruction did not influence subjects’ judgments. This research provides a more detailed understanding of the role of face and context by exploring how features associated with the observer-encoder interaction influence emotion perception.

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Correspondence to Marilyn Mendolia.

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Mendolia, M. Type of Task Instruction Enhances the Role of Face and Context in Emotion Perception. J Nonverbal Behav (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-021-00383-1

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Keywords

  • Facial expression
  • Emotion perception
  • Face/context superiority