Masking the face: recognition of emotional facial expressions as a function of the parameters of backward masking

Scand J Psychol. 1993 Mar;34(1):1-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.1993.tb01096.x.


Four experiments are reported investigating recognition of emotional expressions in very briefly presented facial stimulus. The faces were backwardly masked by neutral facial displays and recognition of facial expressions was analyzed as a function of the manipulation of different parameters in the masking procedure. The main conclusion was that stimulus onset asynchrony between target and mask proved to be the principal factor influencing recognition of the masked expressions. In general, confident recognitions of facial expressions required about 100-150 msec, with shorter time for happy than for angry expressions. The manipulation of the duration of both the target and the mask, by itself, had only minimal effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Reaction Time