Social interactions require quick perception, interpretation, and categorization of faces, with facial features offering cues to emotions, intentions, and traits. Importantly, reactions to faces depend not only on their features but also on their processing fluency, with disfluent faces suffering social devaluation. The current research used electrophysiological (EEG) and behavioral measures to explore at what processing stage and under what conditions emotional ambiguity is detected in the brain and how it influences trustworthiness judgments. Participants viewed male and female faces ranging from pure anger, through mixed expressions, to pure happiness. They categorized each face along the experimental dimension (happy vs. angry) or a control dimension (gender). In the emotion-categorization condition, mixed (ambiguous) expressions were classified relatively slower, and their trustworthiness was rated relatively lower. EEG analyses revealed that early brain responses are independent of the categorization condition, with pure faces evoking larger P1/N1 responses than mixed expressions. Some late (728- 880 ms) brain responses from central-parietal sites also were independent of the categorization condition and presumably reflect familiarity of the emotion categories, with pure expressions evoking larger central-parietal LPP amplitude than mixed expressions. Interestingly, other late responses were sensitive to both expressive features and categorization task, with ambiguous faces evoking a larger LPP amplitude in frontal-medial sites around 560-660 ms but only in the emotion categorization task. Critically, these late responses from the frontal-medial cluster correlated with the reduction in trustworthiness judgments. Overall, the results suggest that ambiguity detection involves late, top-down processes and that it influences important social impressions.
Facial features that resemble emotional expressions influence key social evaluations, including trust. Here, we present four experiments testing how the impact of such expressive features is qualified by their processing difficulty. We show that faces with mixed expressive features are relatively devalued, and faces with pure expressive features are relatively valued. This is especially true when participants first engage in a categorisation task that makes processing of mixed expressions difficult and pure expressions easy. Critically, we also demonstrate that the impact of categorisation fluency depends on the specific nature of the expressive features. When faces vary on valence (i.e. sad to happy), trust judgments increase with their positivity, but also depend on fluency. When faces vary on social motivation (i.e. angry to sad), trust judgments increase with their approachability, but remain impervious to disfluency. This suggests that people intelligently use fluency to make judgments on valence-relevant judgment dimensions – but not when faces can be judged using other relevant criteria, such as motivation. Overall, the findings highlight that key social impressions (like trust) are flexibly constructed from inputs related to stimulus features and processing experience.
Niniejsza praca eksploruje procesy emocji i poznania społecznego w kontekście oceniania mimicznej ekspresji emocji. Prezentowane badanie sprawdza, czy poznawczy wysiłek związany z kategoryzacją ekspresji twarzy wpływa na wnioskowanie o czytelność intencji aktora i także na chęć jego bliższego poznania przez obserwatora. Zakładano, że ekspresja emocji podstawowych jest łatwo przetwarzana (szybko kategoryzowana), a osoba ją prezentująca – łatwo oceniana (np. ktoś z wyrazem złości – jako agresywny, z wyrazem radości – jako miły). Jednak nieczytelne/mieszane wyrazy mimiczne są trudne w przetwarzaniu (wolno kategoryzowane), co wywołuje negatywną reakcję i sądy. W trakcie eksperymentu uczestnikom pokazywano zdjęcia twarzy, których ekspresje komputerowo zmodyfikowano, przechodząc w 14 krokach od złości do radości. Zadanie polegało na jak najszybszej kategoryzacji wyrażanej emocji (złość lub radość), a następnie badany oceniał cechy widzianej twarzy (tj. jak czytelne są intencje osoby oraz czy chciałby ją poznać). Wyniki pokazały, że oceny twarzy z mieszanymi emocjami zostały obniżone w stosunku do prognozowanej liniowej tendencji wzrostu na wymiarze negatywno-pozytywnym (tj. im więcej radości, tym wyższa ocena). Artykuł dyskutuje potencjalny wpływ płynności przetwarzania na złożone sądy społeczne i wnioskowanie o cechach. This work examines the relation between emotion and social cognition in the context of evaluation of human facial expression. The presented study tests whether the effort of processing facial displays influences social judgments, such as intention clarity and willingness to meet. More precisely, we assume that facial displays of basic emotion have high fluency. This is reflected in fast categorization and easy attribution of social traits (e.g. anger – aggressive, happy – nice). However, unclear/ambiguous facial displays elicit disfluency. This difficulty of categorization and trait attribution causes negative reactions, which lowers social judgments. During the experiment participants saw pictures of emotional displays, each changing within 14 steps/frames into a different emotional category (e.g. angry to happy). Participants were asked to quickly categorize each picture on emotion, and then judge some displayer traits (e.g. intentions). Results support our hypothesis that faces with ambiguous emotional display are relatively devalued, as compared to the standard linear effect of positive expressive traits. We discuss possible consequences of categorization conflict on various socio-cognitive processes.
Facial features influence social evaluations. For example, faces are rated as more attractive and trustworthy when they have more smiling features and also more female features. However, the influence of facial features on evaluations should be qualified by the affective consequences of fluency (cognitive ease) with which such features are processed. Further, fluency (along with its affective consequences) should depend on whether the current task highlights conflict between specific features. Four experiments are presented. In 3 experiments, participants saw faces varying in expressions ranging from pure anger, through mixed expression, to pure happiness. Perceivers first categorized faces either on a control dimension, or an emotional dimension (angry/happy). Thus, the emotional categorization task made "pure" expressions fluent and "mixed" expressions disfluent. Next, participants made social evaluations. Results show that after emotional categorization, but not control categorization, targets with mixed expressions are relatively devalued. Further, this effect is mediated by categorization disfluency. Additional data from facial electromyography reveal that on a basic physiological level, affective devaluation of mixed expressions is driven by their objective ambiguity. The fourth experiment shows that the relative devaluation of mixed faces that vary in gender ambiguity requires a gender categorization task. Overall, these studies highlight that the impact of facial features on evaluation is qualified by their fluency, and that the fluency of features is a function of the current task. The discussion highlights the implications of these findings for research on emotional reactions to ambiguity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
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