Green, C., & Guo, K. (2018). Factors contributing to individual differences in facial expression categorization. Cognition and Emotion, 32, 37-48.

Individuals vary in perceptual accuracy when categorising facial expressions, yet it is unclear how these individual differences in non-clinical population are related to cognitive processing stages at facial information acquisition and interpretation. We tested 104 healthy adults in a facial expression categorisation task, and correlated their categorisation accuracy with face-viewing gaze allocation and personal traits assessed with Autism Quotient, anxiety inventory and Self-Monitoring Scale. The gaze allocation had limited but emotion-specific impact on categorising expressions. Specifically, longer gaze at the eyes and nose regions were coupled with more accurate categorisation of disgust and sad expressions, respectively. Regarding trait measurements, higher autistic score was coupled with better recognition of sad but worse recognition of anger expressions, and contributed to categorisation bias towards sad expressions; whereas higher anxiety level was associated with greater categorisation accuracy across all expressions and with increased tendency of gazing at the nose region. It seems that both anxiety and autistic-like traits were associated with individual variation in expression categorisation, but this association is not necessarily mediated by variation in gaze allocation at expression-specific local facial regions. The results suggest that both facial information acquisition and interpretation capabilities contribute to individual differences in expression categorisation within non-clinical populations.

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