Emotion categorization does not depend on explicit face categorization

J Vis. 2013 Feb 8;13(2):12. doi: 10.1167/13.2.12.


Face perception and emotion recognition have been extensively studied in the past decade; however, the relation between them is still poorly understood. A traditional view is that successful emotional categorization requires categorization of the stimulus as a 'face', at least at the basic level. Here we tested whether emotional information could still be recognized accurately without explicit categorization of a stimulus as a face. For this purpose we created a stimulus set in which facial stimuli expressing a range of happy-to-fear emotions were morphed into another object category (shoe). Interestingly, participants categorized emotions with great accuracy in stimuli that contained so little face information that they were explicitly categorized as shoes. Hence, our results show that accurate emotion categorization can take place in stimuli that contain surprisingly little face information. This finding raises interesting questions about the extent to which processes leading to emotion recognition and categorical face perception might be separable.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Face / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Young Adult