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  • Review Article
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The role of facial movements in emotion recognition

Abstract

Most past research on emotion recognition has used photographs of posed expressions intended to depict the apex of the emotional display. Although these studies have provided important insights into how emotions are perceived in the face, they necessarily leave out any role of dynamic information. In this Review, we synthesize evidence from vision science, affective  science and neuroscience to ask when, how and why dynamic information contributes to emotion recognition, beyond the information conveyed in static images. Dynamic displays offer distinctive temporal information such as the direction, quality and speed of movement, which recruit higher-level cognitive processes and support social and emotional inferences that enhance judgements of facial affect. The positive influence of dynamic information on emotion recognition is most evident in suboptimal conditions when observers are impaired and/or facial expressions are degraded or subtle. Dynamic displays further recruit early attentional and motivational resources in the perceiver, facilitating the prompt detection and prediction of others’ emotional states, with benefits for social interaction. Finally, because emotions can be expressed in various modalities, we examine the multimodal integration of dynamic and static cues across different channels, and conclude with suggestions for future research.

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Fig. 1: Temporal trajectory of facial actions.
Fig. 2: Standard neural model of face perception.
Fig. 3: Multiple channels of emotion information.

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Krumhuber, E.G., Skora, L.I., Hill, H.C.H. et al. The role of facial movements in emotion recognition. Nat Rev Psychol 2, 283–296 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44159-023-00172-1

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