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What messages does a face convey?

Authors Li, Kwan Ho
Issue Date 2014
Summary What messages does a face convey? The universality thesis of facial expressions suggests that emotions are the only messages conveyed by facial expressions. Yet, there has always been controversy over this proposition. Previous studies have shown that facial expressions may also convey action tendencies, situation appraisals and social messages. In this thesis project, I critically examined the universality thesis of facial expressions by exploring the messages conveyed by faces at different levels of processing. Offline (Study 1: forced-choice survey; Study 2: free-labeling survey) and online (Study 3: response time experiments) methods were both used, and responses were found to vary across methods. When asked to match facial expressions with a list of messages (Study 1), participants tended to match emotions with facial expressions. When asked to freely label facial expressions (Study 2), participants were inclined to give situation appraisal responses. While emotion message and situation appraisal were the modal responses in Studies 1 and 2, action tendency and situation appraisal were found to be the first activated mental representations in response time experiments (Study 3). Taken together, the results suggest that faces convey multiple messages at different levels of processing, namely emotion messages, situation appraisals and action tendencies. In addition, participants adopted a top-down approach (moving from a general category to a specific component) in associating messages with facial expressions when processing was at a conscious level, and a bottom-up approach (moving from a specific component to a general category) when processing was automatic.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2014
Language English
Format Thesis
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