Is there more in a happy face than just a big smile?

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Abstract:

Happy faces involve appearance changes in the mouth (the smile) and eye region (e.g., narrowing of the eye opening). The present experiments investigated whether the recognition of happy faces is achieved on the basis of the smile alone or whether information in the eye region is also used. A go/no-go task was used in which participants responded to happy faces and withhold a response to nonhappy distractors. The presence/absence of the expressive cues in the eyes did not affect recognition accuracy but reaction times were slightly longer for smiles without expressive cues in the eyes. This delay was not obtained when the top and the bottom halves of the faces were misaligned, or when the distractor was changed from a top-dominant to a bottom-dominant facial expression (i.e., from anger to disgust). Together, these results suggest that the eyes may have a modest effect on speeded recognition of happy faces although the presence of this effect may depend on task context.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13506280600765333

Affiliations: University of Tampere, Finland

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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