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Cognition. 1992 Sep;44(3):227-40.

Categorical perception of facial expressions.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139.


People universally recognize facial expressions of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and perhaps, surprise, suggesting a perceptual mechanism tuned to the facial configuration displaying each emotion. Sets of drawings were generated by computer, each consisting of a series of faces differing by constant physical amounts, running from one emotional expression to another (or from one emotional expression to a neutral face). Subjects discriminated pairs of faces, then, in a separate task, categorized the emotion displayed by each. Faces within a category were discriminated more poorly than faces in different categories that differed by an equal physical amount. Thus emotional expressions, like colors and speech sounds, are perceived categorically, not as a direct reflection of their continuous physical properties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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