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Judgment of feeling states from facial behavior: a bottom-up approach Snodgrass, Jacalyn D.

Abstract

A series of studies was conducted to examine the feasiblity of a bottom-up approach to the study of judgment of affective feeling states from facial behavior. Previous work on the judgment of emotion from facial expressions has taken a more top-down approach; observers judged the emotional meaning of a wholistic facial expression. Individual facial movements have sometimes then been identified within that complex expression, but the meaning of those individual movements has not been studied. A bottom-up approach begins by exploring the meaning of individual facial movements instead of complex facial expressions. In this approach the relationship between the emotional meaning of individual facial movements and complex facial expressions can be explored. It is argued that such an approach has the potential to explain judgment of not only a limited set of basic emotional expressions, but the full range of emotionally tinged feelings that individuals both experience in themselves and judge in others. Individual action units, as scored by Ekman and Friesen's (1978) Facial Action Coding System (FACS), and selected combinations of action units were presented to observers in three pairs of studies. Filmstrip sequences were used in the first pair of studies, and still photographs in the other two pairs. In the first study of each pair, observers judged the degree of pleasure and arousal expressed by the face. In the second study of each pair, observers rated how well each of a set of emotion terms described the feeling expressed by the face. Observers were found to reliably attribute meaning to individual action units on both scales. Additionally, pleasure and arousal judgments predicted emotion term ratings. The meaning attributed to combinations of action units was found to be related to the meanings of the individual action units occurring alone. Resultant ratings were shown to be meaningful within a dimensional model of emotion space.

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