Emotional expression affects the accuracy of gaze perception. Janek S. Lobmaier, Matthias Hartmann, Andreas J. Volz, Fred W. Mast

Article: Emotional expression affects the accuracy of gaze perception.

Authors: Janek S. Lobmaier, Matthias Hartmann, Andreas J. Volz, Fred W. Mast
Source: Motivation and Emotion Journal; Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 194-201.
Date: March 2013

Abstract: Emotional facial expressions are powerful social cues. Here we investigated how emotional expression affects the interpretation of eye gaze direction. Fifty-two observers judged where faces were looking by moving a slider on a measuring bar to the respective position. The faces displayed either an angry, happy, fearful or a neutral expression and were looking either straight at the observer, or were rotated 2°, 4°, 6° or 8° to the left and right. We found that happy faces were interpreted as directed closer to the observer, while fearful and angry faces were interpreted as directed further away. Judgments were most accurate for neutral faces, followed by happy, angry and fearful faces. These findings are discussed on the background of the “self-referential positivity bias”, suggesting that happy faces are preferably interpreted as directed towards the self while negative emotions are interpreted as directed further away.

 

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