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Categorical Perception of Face Actions: Their Role in Sign Language and in Communicative Facial Displays

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Abstract:

Can face actions that carry significance within language be perceived categorically? We used continua produced by computational morphing of face-action images to explore this question in a controlled fashion. In Experiment 1 we showed that question-type-a syntactic distinction in British Sign Language (BSL)-can be perceived categorically, but only when it is also identified as a question marker. A few hearing non-signers were sensitive to this distinction; among those who used sign, late sign learners were no less sensitive than early sign users. A very similar facial-display continuum between ''surprise'' and ''puzzlement'' was perceived categorically by deaf and hearing participants, irrespective of their sign experience (Experiment 2). The categorical processing of facial displays can be demonstrated for sign, but may be grounded in universally perceived distinctions between communicative face actions. Moreover, the categorical perception of facial actions is not confined to the six universal facial expressions.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/713755802

Publication date: February 1, 1999

psych/pqja/1999/00000052/00000001/art00004
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