The sound of the crowd: auditory information modulates the perceived emotion of a crowd based on bodily expressions

Emotion. 2012 Feb;12(1):120-31. doi: 10.1037/a0024785. Epub 2011 Aug 29.


Although both auditory and visual information can influence the perceived emotion of an individual, how these modalities contribute to the perceived emotion of a crowd of characters was hitherto unknown. Here, we manipulated the ambiguity of the emotion of either a visual or auditory crowd of characters by varying the proportions of characters expressing one of two emotional states. Using an intersensory bias paradigm, unambiguous emotional information from an unattended modality was presented while participants determined the emotion of a crowd in an attended, but different, modality. We found that emotional information in an unattended modality can disambiguate the perceived emotion of a crowd. Moreover, the size of the crowd had little effect on these crossmodal influences. The role of audiovisual information appears to be similar in perceiving emotion from individuals or crowds. Our findings provide novel insights into the role of multisensory influences on the perception of social information from crowds of individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Crowding*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Social Perception*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult