Understanding the relationship between facial and bodily expression of emotions: An eye movement study
In this study, we examined the perception and judgment of emotional expressions, focusing both on the face and on the body. Previous research has primarily investigated the role of the face in conveying emotion. However, a key theoretical question is to what extent the body conveys specific information about emotion in other people. Most researchers would argue that the body does not convey specific information about emotional state, but instead, it conveys information about the intensity of the emotion. Photographs of two actors expressing happiness, sadness, anger, and fear were presented in congruent (happy face with happy body) and incongruent combinations (happy face with fearful body). Participants saw each image, and then selected an emotional label using a four-option categorisation task. RTs and accuracy for the categorisation judgment, and eye movements were the dependent variables. Results showed better accuracy and faster RTs for congruent images compared to incongruent images. There were more fixations and longer dwell times to the face and the body with incongruent images. Happy faces and bodies received fewer fixations compared to the other emotions. Angry body poses provided the strongest evidence that the body can convey specific information concerning emotional state. We found that with incongruent images, participants were more likely to select ‘angry’ when the body was angry and the face was, for example, fearful. Therefore, our results allow us to quantify how visual attention is allocated to the face and the body, and they also indicate that body expression can convey specific information regarding emotion.