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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996 Feb;70(2):205-18.

Do facial expressions signal specific emotions? Judging emotion from the face in context.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Abstract

Certain facial expressions have been theorized to be easily recognizable signals of specific emotions. If so, these expressions should override situationally based expectations used by a person in attributing an emotion to another. An alternative account is offered in which the face provides information relevant to emotion but does not signal a specific emotion. Therefore, in specified circumstances, situational rather than facial information was predicted to determine the judged emotion. This prediction was supported in 3 studies--indeed, in each of the 22 cases examined (e.g., a person in a frightening situation but displaying a reported "facial expression of anger" was judged as afraid). Situational information was especially influential when it suggested a nonbasic emotion (e.g., a person in a painful situation but displaying a "facial expression of fear" was judged as in pain).

PMID:
8636880
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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