Mood‐congruent biases in facial emotion perception and their gender dependence

John Eric Steephen, Sneha Kummetha, Siva Charan Obbineni, Raju Surampudi Bapi
Published Online:
05 Oct 2020

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Due to mood‐congruency effects, we expect the emotion perceived on a face to be biased towards one's own mood. But the findings in the scant literature on such mood effects in normal healthy populations have not consistently and adequately supported this expectation. Employing effective mood manipulation techniques that ensured that the intended mood was sustained throughout the perception task, we explored mood‐congruent intensity and recognition accuracy biases in emotion perception. Using realistic face stimuli with expressive cues of happiness and sadness, we demonstrated that happy, neutral and ambiguous expressions were perceived more positively in the positive than in the negative mood. The mood‐congruency effect decreased with the degree of perceived negativity in the expression. Also, males were more affected by the mood‐congruency effect in intensity perception than females. We suggest that the greater salience and better processing of negative stimuli and the superior cognitive ability of females in emotion perception are responsible for these observations. We found no evidence for mood‐congruency effect in the recognition accuracy of emotions and suggest with supporting evidence that past reports of this effect may be attributed to response bias driven by mood.

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