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Journal Article

Perception of temporal asymmetries in dynamic facial expressions


Bartels,  A
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Reinl, M., & Bartels, A. (2015). Perception of temporal asymmetries in dynamic facial expressions. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 1107, pp. 1-8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01107.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002A-44F2-A
In the current study we examined whether timeline-reversals and emotional direction of dynamic facial expressions affect subjective experience of human observers. We recorded natural movies of faces that increased or decreased their expressions of fear, and played them either in the natural frame order or reversed from last to first frame (reversed timeline). This led to four conditions of increasing or decreasing fear, either following the natural or reversed temporal trajectory of facial dynamics. This 2-by-2 factorial design controlled for visual low-level properties, static visual content, and motion energy across the different factors. It allowed us to examine perceptual consequences that would occur if the timeline trajectory of facial muscle movements during the increase of an emotion are not the exact mirror of the timeline during the decrease. It additionally allowed us to study perceptual differences between increasing and decreasing emotional expressions. Perception of these time-dependent asymmetries have not yet been quantified. We found that three emotional measures, emotional intensity, artificialness of facial movement, and convincingness or plausibility of emotion portrayal, were affected by timeline-reversals as well as by the emotional direction of the facial expressions. Our results imply that natural dynamic facial expressions contain temporal asymmetries, and show that deviations from the natural timeline lead to a reduction of perceived emotional intensity and convincingness, and to an increase of perceived artificialness of the dynamic facial expression. In addition, they show that decreasing facial expressions are judged as less plausible than increasing facial expressions. Our findings are of relevance for both, behavioral as well as neuroimaging studies, as processing and perception are influenced by temporal asymmetries.