Are popular posed "emotion" stimuli good enought for research?

Date & time

4–5pm 6 September 2016


PSYC G8, Psychology Building 39


Dr Amy Dawel, Research School of Psychology, ANU

Dr Amy Dawel, Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University

Dr Amy Dawel is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University, and an Associate Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Cognition and its Disorders. She also works in private practice as a psychologist. Her research examines social cognition in children and adults, including eye-gaze and facial expression processing, and how these abilities relate to individual differences in clinical and personality traits.

Title: Are popular posed “emotion” stimuli good enough for research?

Despite the longstanding and widespread interest in how people perceive others’ emotions from facial expressions, much of the empirical data comes from a small number of artificially posed stimuli (e.g., the Ekman faces), which were validated only by high levels of agreement about what emotion they are showing (e.g., labeled as angry, happy sad, etc.). This ignores a separate —and potentially critical— dimension of facial expressions: whether or not they are perceived as showing genuine emotion. In this talk, I will present the first evidence establishing that many popular posed stimuli, including those from Ekman, are perceived as not showing genuine emotion.

I will then demonstrate it is possible to obtain facial expressions that are reliably perceived as genuine, and describe the development of two new stimulus sets: one elicited by emotional events and perceived as showing genuine emotion, and the other elicited by posing and perceived as not showing genuine emotion. Finally, and most importantly, drawing upon data from these two new stimulus sets, I will show that using genuine instead of posed expressions can make a real difference to research outcomes, in the examples of social anxiety and psychopathic traits.

Updated:  20 September 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RSP/Page Contact:  Web Admin, RSP