Central to emotion science is the degree to which categories, such as Awe, or broader affective features, such as Valence, underlie the recognition of emotional expression. To explore the processes by which people recognize emotion from prosody, US and Indian participants were asked to judge the emotion categories or affective features communicated by 2,519 speech samples produced by 100 actors from 5 cultures. With large-scale statistical inference methods, we find that prosody can communicate at least 12 distinct kinds of emotion that are preserved across the 2 cultures. Analyses of the semantic and acoustic structure of the recognition of emotions reveal that emotion categories drive the recognition of emotions more so than affective features, including Valence. In contrast to discrete emotion theories, however, emotion categories are bridged by gradients representing blends of emotions. Our findings, visualized within an interactive map, reveal a complex, high-dimensional space of emotional states recognized cross-culturally in speech prosody.
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We thank R. Rosipal for devising a correlational version of PPCA and F. Theunissen for providing input regarding acoustic analyses. Research reported in this publication was supported by the US National Institute of Mental Health under award number T32-MH020006-16A1 and by the Thomas and Ruth Ann Hornaday Chair in Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.