Are compound emotions also basic emotion categories?
33.543, Sunday, May 12, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Vista Ballroom
Pamela Pallett1, Aleix Martinez1; 1Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, Ohio State University
Research on the perception of facial expressions of emotion generally focuses on six theoretically basic categories: angry, happy, sad, fear, surprise, and disgust. Yet other facial expressions of emotion are regularly observed, e.g., appalled and angrily-surprised. Many of these emotion categories can be defined as combinations of the six basic emotions (e.g., appalled is the state of simultaneously feeling disgusted and angry). Here we ask whether facial expressions of compound emotions are perceived as the summed representation of different basic categories or as their own, distinct emotion categories. Participants (N = 23) completed a 3 alternative forced choice match-to-sample task, in which they viewed a target facial expression of emotion (1000 ms) and then selected a match from one of three test expressions (by key press). The target expression was either one of 17 compound emotions or one of the six basic emotions; test expressions consisted of two basic emotions and their compound. Results were highly consistent between participants and suggested that some compound emotions are perceived as distinct emotion categories, while others are likely represented as the sum of their two subordinate emotion categories. For example, participants were 83% correct when asked to discriminate angrily-surprised from anger and surprise (angry vs. angrily-surprised and surprise = 75% correct, surprise vs. angrily-surprised and angry = 61% correct), whereas recognition of appalled vs. angry and disgust was at chance (33%; angry vs. appalled & disgust = 55% correct, disgust vs. angry and appalled = 35% correct). These results may further suggest that some compound emotions are coded as a basic category by the visual system, which would have major implications in the study of face perception and emotion.