Emotion detection: can perceivers identify an emotion from limited information?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Perceivers who can accurately identify an emotion are more likely to engage in successful social interactions. Research has shown that perceivers can accurately identify emotions from facial expressions. However, in real life not all the features of a displayer’s face are always visible to the perceiver. The aim of this study was to discover if participants could accurately identify facial expressions of emotion from limited information. Two experiments were carried out to investigate this idea using static photographs of genuine and posed happy, sad and fearful facial expressions. Certain features for each expression have previously been identified to be more informative than others, for example, the eyes and mouth when identifying happiness and the forehead and eyes when identifying sadness and fear. Using this information, this study employed a mask to occlude four separate regions of the face: the forehead and eyebrows, the eyes, the nose and cheeks, and the mouth. In Experiment 1, the experimenter revealed the regions for participants, after each reveal the participants were asked to identify the emotion. In Experiment 2, participants revealed the regions in response to being asked to identify a happy, sad or fearful emotion, after each reveal the participants responded whether the target was feeling the emotion they were identifying. This study found that participants can accurately identify an emotion from limited information and their accuracy increased as more of the target’s face was revealed. Specifically, participants who viewed the eyes and/or mouth regions were found to be more accurate identifying the emotions than participants who viewed other regions. The results are discussed with respect to contemporary theories of facial expressions of emotion.