Cultural variation in hemifacial asymmetry of emotion expressions

Br J Soc Psychol. 2001 Sep;40(Pt 3):385-98. doi: 10.1348/014466601164885.


Photographs of hemifacial composites (left-left, right-right and normal presentation, right-left) of these cultures (Japanese, Oriental Indian and North American) displaying six emotions (happy, sad, fear, anger, surprise, disgust) and a neutral state were administered successively (one by one) as well as simultaneously (three hemifacial photographs of an expression at a time) to observers for judgment on a 5-point scale in terms of distinctiveness of expression. Observers' judgments were treated with a culture of expressor x sex of expressor x facial presentation x emotion category mixed factorial ANOVA. Cultures did not vary for their distinctiveness of facial expressions, suggesting universality in this respect. Culture-specificity was, however, observed with respect to hemifacial asymmetry and valence of emotion expressions: (1) Japanese showed a right hemifacial bias for positive and left hemifacial bias for negative emotions; Indians and North Americans showed left hemifacial bias for all emotions, and (2) negative emotion expressions were least distinctly identifiable in Japanese faces followed by Indian and North American faces.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Emotions*
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Japan
  • Male
  • North America
  • Social Environment