Exposure to the self-face facilitates identification of dynamic facial expressions: influences on individual differences

Emotion. 2013 Apr;13(2):196-202. doi: 10.1037/a0030755. Epub 2012 Dec 3.


A growing literature suggests that the self-face is involved in processing the facial expressions of others. The authors experimentally activated self-face representations to assess its effects on the recognition of dynamically emerging facial expressions of others. They exposed participants to videos of either their own faces (self-face prime) or faces of others (nonself-face prime) prior to a facial expression judgment task. Their results show that experimentally activating self-face representations results in earlier recognition of dynamically emerging facial expression. As a group, participants in the self-face prime condition recognized expressions earlier (when less affective perceptual information was available) compared to participants in the nonself-face prime condition. There were individual differences in performance, such that poorer expression identification was associated with higher autism traits (in this neurocognitively healthy sample). However, when randomized into the self-face prime condition, participants with high autism traits performed as well as those with low autism traits. Taken together, these data suggest that the ability to recognize facial expressions in others is linked with the internal representations of our own faces.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Body Image*
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult