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Perception. 2005;34(9):1107-16.

Perceived dynamics of static images enables emotional attribution.

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Department of Paediatric Neurology and Child Development, Children's Hospital, and Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioural Neurobiology, MEG-Center, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, D 72074 Tübingen, Germany.


Perception of intentions and dispositions of others is an essential ingredient of adaptive daily-life social behaviour. Dynamics of moving images leads to veridical perception of social attributes. Anecdotal observations in art, science, and popular culture indicate that dynamic imbalance can be revealed in static images. Here, we ask whether perceived dynamics of abstract figures is related to emotional attribution. Participants first estimated instability of geometric shapes rotated in 15 degrees steps in the image plane, and then rated the intensity of basic emotions that can be ascribed to the figures. We found no substantial link between the deviation of the figures from the vertical orientation and perceived instability. Irrespective of shape, a strong positive correlation was found between negative emotions and perceived instability. By contrast, positive emotions were inversely linked with deviation of the figure from vertical orientation. The work demonstrates for the first time that dynamics conveyed by static images enables specific emotional attributions, and agrees well with the assumption that neural networks for production of movements and understanding the dispositions of others are intimately linked. The findings are also of importance for exploring the ability to reveal social properties through dynamics in normal and abnormal development, for example in patients with early brain injury or autistic spectrum disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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