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The Unique and Interactive Effects of Faces, Postures, and Scenes on Emotion Categorization


There is ongoing debate as to whether emotion perception is determined by facial expressions or context (i.e., non-facial cues). The present investigation examined the independent and interactive effects of six emotions (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, neutral) conveyed by combinations of facial expressions, bodily postures, and background scenes in a fully crossed design. Participants viewed each face-posture-scene (FPS) combination for 5 s and were then asked to categorize the emotion depicted in the image. Four key findings emerged from the analyses: (1) For fully incongruent FPS combinations, participants categorized images using the face in 61% of instances and the posture and scene in 18% and 11% of instances, respectively; (2) postures (with neutral scenes) and scenes (with neutral postures) exerted differential influences on emotion categorizations when combined with incongruent facial expressions; (3) contextual asymmetries were observed for some incongruent face-posture pairings and their inverse (e.g., anger-fear vs. fear-anger), but not for face-scene pairings; (4) finally, scenes exhibited a boosting effect of posture when combined with a congruent posture and attenuated the effect of posture when combined with a congruent face. Overall, these findings highlight independent and interactional roles of posture and scene in emotion face perception. Theoretical implications for the study of emotions in context are discussed.

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The authors would like to thank Ryan McLean for assisting with the stimuli creation and McKay Morgan for helpful insight into an early version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Peter J. Reschke.

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The data for these studies are available on OSF:

Ethical Approval

The study was conducted following APA ethical standards and with approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Brigham Young University (Approval Number X18379, Protocol Title: “Perceiving Emotions in Context”).

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The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

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Informed consent was obtained from all research participants.

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Handling Editor: Kristen Lindquist

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Reschke, P.J., Walle, E.A. The Unique and Interactive Effects of Faces, Postures, and Scenes on Emotion Categorization. Affec Sci 2, 468–483 (2021).

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  • Emotion categorization
  • Facial expressions
  • Body postures
  • Background scenes
  • Emotion perception