Hemispheric asymmetries in processing emotional expressions

Neuropsychologia. 1983;21(5):555-65. doi: 10.1016/0028-3932(83)90011-8.


Three experiments are reported on visual field asymmetries in the perception of emotional expressions on the face. In experiment I full faces expressing six different emotions were presented unilaterally for exposure durations, allowing the subject to judge whether the facial expression was positive or negative. Right-handed subjects judged all expressions except happiness as more negative when presented in the left visual field (LVF). This effect was smaller for left-handers and was absent in left-handers who use the non-inverted writing posture. In experiment II subjects were presented with happy, sad and "mixed" chimeric faces, projected to each visual field, for durations allowing only the detection of the existence of a face. LVF presentations produced greater differential rating of emotional valence for the three types of stimuli. In experiment III chimeric faces containing happy and sad expressions were presented unilaterally for durations allowing the subject to perceive the existence of two expressions on the face. The subjects were required to decide whether the mood expressed in the face was predominantly negative or positive. RVF presentations resulted in a bias toward positive judgments. These results indicate right hemispheric superiority for the perception and processing of emotional valence and a left hemispheric perceptual bias toward positive aspects of emotional stimuli.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Emotions
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Visual Fields
  • Visual Perception / physiology*