Approach‐avoidance responses and categorical perception of ambiguous facial expressions

Shinnosuke Ikeda
Published Online:
18 Aug 2021
Volume/Issue No:
Early View Articles

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Emotion perception of facial expressions involves two processes: quick approach‐avoidance responses and subsequent sorting into emotional categories (i.e., happiness, anger), considering the context. Sorting of morphed ambiguous facial expressions is known to occur categorically, but the occurrence of approach‐avoidance responses for morphed facial expressions is yet to be investigated. The present study used morphed angry and fearful facial expressions and measured approach‐avoidance responses among Japanese university students (Experiment 1, n = 29). Similar experiments with linguistic load (Experiment 2, n = 28) and visual load (Experiment 3, n = 29) were conducted. The results indicated categorical perception in the sorting of facial expressions but no approach‐avoidance response for morphed expressions. Furthermore, linguistic load affected the categorisation of facial expressions, but neither linguistic load nor visual load affected the approach‐avoidance response. These results support the idea that the non‐linguistic approach‐avoidance response and the linguistic categorisation of facial expressions are two different processes. The nature of the emotional perception process is also discussed.

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