Differences in holistic processing do not explain cultural differences in the recognition of facial expression

Published in: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Volume 70, Issue 12, 2445-2459

“The aim of this study was to investigate the causes of the own-race advantage in facial expression perception. In Experiment 1, we investigated Western Caucasian and Chinese participants’ perception and categorization of facial expressions of six basic emotions that included two pairs of confusable expressions (fear and surprise; anger and disgust). People were slightly better at identifying facial expressions posed by own-race members (mainly in anger and disgust). In Experiment 2, we asked whether the own-race advantage was due to differences in the holistic processing of facial expressions. Participants viewed composite faces in which the upper part of one expression was combined with the lower part of a different expression. The upper and lower parts of the composite faces were either aligned or misaligned. Both Chinese and Caucasian participants were better at identifying the facial expressions from the misaligned images, showing interference on recognizing the parts of the expressions created by holistic perception of the aligned composite images. However, this interference from holistic processing was equivalent across expressions of own-race and other-race faces in both groups of participants. Whilst the own-race advantage in recognizing facial expressions does seem to reflect the confusability of certain emotions, it cannot be explained by differences in holistic processing.”

Written by: Xiaoqian Yan, Andrew W. Young, Timothy J. Andrews
For full text: https://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2016.1240816

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