Effects of direct and averted gaze on the perception of facially communicated emotion

Emotion. 2005 Mar;5(1):3-11. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.5.1.3.


Research has largely neglected the effects of gaze direction cues on the perception of facial expressions of emotion. It was hypothesized that when gaze direction matches the underlying behavioral intent (approach-avoidance) communicated by an emotional expression, the perception of that emotion would be enhanced (i.e., shared signal hypothesis). Specifically, the authors expected that (a) direct gaze would enhance the perception of approach-oriented emotions (anger and joy) and (b) averted eye gaze would enhance the perception of avoidance-oriented emotions (fear and sadness). Three studies supported this hypothesis. Study 1 examined emotional trait attributions made to neutral faces. Study 2 examined ratings of ambiguous facial blends of anger and fear. Study 3 examined the influence of gaze on the perception of highly prototypical expressions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Set, Psychology
  • Stereotyping