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Department of Cognitive Science

Seminar Abstract

Are popular posed “emotion” stimuli good enough for research?

Speaker : Dr Amy Dawel, School of Psychology, Australian National University.
Date : 4th of December 2017, 12:00PM until 1:00PM
Location : Room 3.14, South Psychology Building, The University of Western Australia.

    Despite the longstanding and widespread interest in how people perceive others’ emotions from facial expressions, much of the empirical data comes from a small number of artificially posed stimuli (e.g., the Ekman faces), which were validated only by high levels of agreement about what emotion they are showing (e.g., labeled as angry, happy sad, etc.). This ignores a separate—and potentially critical—dimension of facial expressions: whether or not they are perceived as showing genuine emotion. In this talk, I present the first evidence establishing that many popular posed stimuli, including those from Ekman, are perceived as not showing genuine emotion. I will then demonstrate it is possible to obtain facial expressions that are reliably perceived as genuine, and briefly describe the development of two new stimulus sets: one elicited by emotional events and perceived as showing genuine emotion, and the other elicited by posing and perceived as not showing genuine emotion. Finally, and most importantly, I will present EEG evidence of reliable neural markers for discriminating between genuine and posed expressions, and show that using genuine instead of posed expressions can make a real difference to research outcomes, using psychopathic traits as an example. Altogether, there is now strong evidence that the authenticity of emotional facial expressions is an issue the literature can no longer afford to ignore.

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