Are affective factors related to individual differences in facial expression recognition? Affective factors and facial expressions

Sarah A.H. Alharbi, Katherine Button, Lingshan Zhang, Kieran J. O'Shea, Vanessa Fasolt, Anthony J. Lee, Lisa M. DeBruine, Benedict C. Jones

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Evidence that affective factors (e.g. anxiety, depression, affect) are significantly related to individual differences in emotion recognition is mixed. Palermo et al. (Palermo et al. 2018 J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 44, 503-517) reported that individuals who scored lower in anxiety performed significantly better on two measures of facial-expression recognition (emotion-matching and emotion-labelling tasks), but not a third measure (the multimodal emotion recognition test). By contrast, facial-expression recognition was not significantly correlated with measures of depression, positive or negative affect, empathy, or autistic-like traits. Because the range of affective factors considered in this study and its use of multiple expression-recognition tasks mean that it is a relatively comprehensive investigation of the role of affective factors in facial expression recognition, we carried out a direct replication. In common with Palermo et al. (Palermo et al. 2018 J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 44, 503-517), scores on the DASS anxiety subscale negatively predicted performance on the emotion recognition tasks across multiple analyses, although these correlations were only consistently significant for performance on the emotion-labelling task. However, and by contrast with Palermo et al. (Palermo et al. 2018 J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 44, 503-517), other affective factors (e.g. those related to empathy) often also significantly predicted emotion-recognition performance. Collectively, these results support the proposal that affective factors predict individual differences in emotion recognition, but that these correlations are not necessarily specific to measures of general anxiety, such as the DASS anxiety subscale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number190699
Number of pages9
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • emotional expression
  • face processing
  • individual differences
  • facial expressions

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