Expecting Happy Women, Not Detecting the Angry Ones : Detection and Perceived Intensity of Facial Anger, Happiness, and Emotionality

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Department of Psychology, Stockholm University

Sammanfattning: Faces provide cues for judgments regarding the emotional state of individuals. Using signal-detection methodology and a standardized stimulus set, the overall aim of the present dissertation was to investigate the detection of emotional facial expressions (i.e., angry and happy faces) with neutral expressions as the nontarget stimuli. Study I showed a happy-superiority effect and a bias towards reporting happiness in female faces. As work progressed, questions arose regarding whether the emotional stimuli were equal with regard to perceived strength of emotion, and whether the neutral faces were perceived as neutral. To further investigate the effect of stimulus quality on the obtained findings, Study II was designed such that the facial stimuli were rated on scales of happy-sad, angry-friendly, and emotionality. Results showed that ‘neutral’ facial expressions were not rated as neutral, and that there was a greater perceived distance between happy and neutral faces than between angry and neutral faces. These results were used to adjust the detectability measures to compensate for the varying distances of the angry and happy stimuli from the neutral stimuli in the emotional space. The happy-superiority effect was weakened, while an angry-female disadvantage remained. However, as these results were based upon different participant groups for detection and emotional rating, Study III was designed to investigate whether the results from Studies I and II could be replicated in a design where the same participants performed both tasks. Again, the results showed the non-neutrality of ‘neutral’ expressions and that happiness was more easily detected than anger, as shown in general emotion as well as specific emotion detection. Taken together, the overall results of the present dissertation demonstrate a happy-superiority effect that was greater for female than male faces, that angry-female faces were the most difficult to detect, and a bias to report female faces as happy.

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