Friday, November 05, 2021

Variability, not stereotypical expressions, in facial portraying of emotional states.

Barrett and collaborators use a novel method to offer more evidence against reliable mapping between certain emotional states and facial muscle movements:
It is long hypothesized that there is a reliable, specific mapping between certain emotional states and the facial movements that express those states. This hypothesis is often tested by asking untrained participants to pose the facial movements they believe they use to express emotions during generic scenarios. Here, we test this hypothesis using, as stimuli, photographs of facial configurations posed by professional actors in response to contextually-rich scenarios. The scenarios portrayed in the photographs were rated by a convenience sample of participants for the extent to which they evoked an instance of 13 emotion categories, and actors’ facial poses were coded for their specific movements. Both unsupervised and supervised machine learning find that in these photographs, the actors portrayed emotional states with variable facial configurations; instances of only three emotion categories (fear, happiness, and surprise) were portrayed with moderate reliability and specificity. The photographs were separately rated by another sample of participants for the extent to which they portrayed an instance of the 13 emotion categories; they were rated when presented alone and when presented with their associated scenarios, revealing that emotion inferences by participants also vary in a context-sensitive manner. Together, these findings suggest that facial movements and perceptions of emotion vary by situation and transcend stereotypes of emotional expressions. Future research may build on these findings by incorporating dynamic stimuli rather than photographs and studying a broader range of cultural contexts.
This perspective is opposite to that expressed by Cowen, Keltner et al. who use another novel method to reach opposite conclusions, in work that was noted in MindBlog's 12/29/20 post, along with some reservations about their conclusions.

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