A quick eye to anger: An investigation of a differential effect of facial features in detecting angry and happy expressions

L. Y. Lo, M. Y. Cheng
Published Online:
11 Aug 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 52 Issue 3

Additional Options

Detection of angry and happy faces is generally found to be easier and faster than that of faces expressing emotions other than anger or happiness. This can be explained by the threatening account and the feature account. Few empirical studies have explored the interaction between these two accounts which are seemingly, but not necessarily, mutually exclusive. The present studies hypothesised that prominent facial features are important in facilitating the detection process of both angry and happy expressions; yet the detection of happy faces was more facilitated by the prominent features than angry faces. Results confirmed the hypotheses and indicated that participants reacted faster to the emotional expressions with prominent features (in Study 1) and the detection of happy faces was more facilitated by the prominent feature than angry faces (in Study 2). The findings are compatible with evolutionary speculation which suggests that the angry expression is an alarming signal of potential threats to survival. Compared to the angry faces, the happy faces need more salient physical features to obtain a similar level of processing efficiency.

© 2015 International Union of Psychological Science