Happiness is in the mouth of the beholder and fear in the eyes: investigating the relationship between bottom-up and top-down processing in emotion recognition of faces (Psychology)
Faces are incredibly important social stimuli. They convey a considerable amount of information about a person; their gender, age, race and identity. Faces also convey how a person is feeling as represented by the expression on their face. We can infer that someone is happy when they are smiling and sad, or confused, when they frown. Although for most people this is a relatively effortless process, it is unclear precisely what visual information is required in order to detect and recognise facial expressions.
Moreover, while emotion recognition may be effortless for most people, some people find it more challenging, or are prone to bias. For example, individuals who are clinically depressed will often report a neutral face as conveying negative affect (e.g. sad or angry) while a control participant will report the same face as neutral. When individuals report being high in state or trait anxiety they too are prone to error in recognising the facial expressions of others.
The aim of this PhD will be to investigate the relationship between the visual signals of an expressive face and higher up cognitive function (e.g. attention, mood) in emotion recognition. This will be investigated this by employing a range of experimental techniques (including visual psychophysics).
The research findings have potential for impact in a range of fields including psychology, neuroscience, vision science as well as application to clinical populations. For information about a related project investigating emotion recognition in Parkinson’s disease please see research.ncl.ac.uk/spies/