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Brain Cogn. 2013 Dec;83(3):252-61. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2013.09.001. Epub 2013 Oct 2.

Decoding facial blends of emotion: visual field, attentional and hemispheric biases.

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Department of Neurology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the VA Medical Center 127, 921 NE 13th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA. Electronic address:


Most clinical research assumes that modulation of facial expressions is lateralized predominantly across the right-left hemiface. However, social psychological research suggests that facial expressions are organized predominantly across the upper-lower face. Because humans learn to cognitively control facial expression for social purposes, the lower face may display a false emotion, typically a smile, to enable approach behavior. In contrast, the upper face may leak a person's true feeling state by producing a brief facial blend of emotion, i.e. a different emotion on the upper versus lower face. Previous studies from our laboratory have shown that upper facial emotions are processed preferentially by the right hemisphere under conditions of directed attention if facial blends of emotion are presented tachistoscopically to the mid left and right visual fields. This paper explores how facial blends are processed within the four visual quadrants. The results, combined with our previous research, demonstrate that lower more so than upper facial emotions are perceived best when presented to the viewer's left and right visual fields just above the horizontal axis. Upper facial emotions are perceived best when presented to the viewer's left visual field just above the horizontal axis under conditions of directed attention. Thus, by gazing at a person's left ear, which also avoids the social stigma of eye-to-eye contact, one's ability to decode facial expressions should be enhanced.


Attention; CRT; Conscious; Display rules; Facial blends of emotion; Facial expressions; M; Perception; Primary emotions; SD; SEM; Social emotions; Subconscious; Visual field; cathode ray tube; mean; standard deviation; standard error of the mean

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