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Emotion. 2007 May;7(2):239-51.

Accurate identification of fear facial expressions predicts prosocial behavior.

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Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The fear facial expression is a distress cue that is associated with the provision of help and prosocial behavior. Prior psychiatric studies have found deficits in the recognition of this expression by individuals with antisocial tendencies. However, no prior study has shown accuracy for recognition of fear to predict actual prosocial or antisocial behavior in an experimental setting. In 3 studies, the authors tested the prediction that individuals who recognize fear more accurately will behave more prosocially. In Study 1, participants who identified fear more accurately also donated more money and time to a victim in a classic altruism paradigm. In Studies 2 and 3, participants' ability to identify the fear expression predicted prosocial behavior in a novel task designed to control for confounding variables. In Study 3, accuracy for recognizing fear proved a better predictor of prosocial behavior than gender, mood, or scores on an empathy scale.

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