Researchers have wondered how the brain creates emotions since the early days of psychological science. With a surge of studies in affective neuroscience in recent decades, scientists are poised to answer this question. In this article, we present a meta-analytic summary of the human neuroimaging literature on emotion. We compare the locationist approach (i.e., the hypothesis that discrete emotion categories consistently and specifically correspond to distinct brain regions) with the psychological constructionist approach (i.e., the hypothesis that discrete emotion categories are constructed of more general brain networks not specific to those categories) to better understand the brain basis of emotion. We review both locationist and psychological constructionist hypotheses of brain–emotion correspondence and report meta-analytic findings bearing on these hypotheses. Overall, we found little evidence that discrete emotion categories can be consistently and specifically localized to distinct brain regions. Instead, we found evidence that is consistent with a psychological constructionist approach to the mind: a set of interacting brain regions commonly involved in basic psychological operations of both an emotional and non-emotional nature are active during emotion experience and perception across a range of discrete emotion categories.
Discrete emotion; emotion; emotion experience; emotion perception; meta-analysis; neuroimaging; psychological construction
Does compassion feel pleasant or unpleasant? People tend to categorize compassion as a pleasant or positive emotion, but laboratory compassion inductions, which present another’s suffering, may elicit unpleasant feelings. Across two studies, we examined whether prototypical conceptualizations of compassion (as pleasant) differ from experiences of compassion (as unpleasant). Following laboratory-based neutral or compassion inductions, participants made abstract judgments about compassion relative to various emotion-related adjectives, thereby providing a prototypical conceptualization of compassion. Participants also rated their own affective states, thereby indicating experiences of compassion. Conceptualizations of compassion were pleasant across neutral and compassion inductions. Following exposure to others’ suffering, however, participants felt increased levels of compassion and unpleasant affect, but not pleasant affect. Following neutral inductions, participants reported more pleasant than unpleasant affect, with moderate levels of compassion. Thus, prototypical conceptualizations of compassion are pleasant, but experiences of compassion can feel pleasant or unpleasant. The implications for emotion theory in general are discussed.
emotion; subjective experience; multidimensional scaling; affective circumplex; Conceptual Act Theory
Understanding how a human brain creates a human mind ultimately depends on mapping psychological categories and concepts to physical measurements of neural response. Although it has long been assumed that emotional, social, and cognitive phenomena are realized in the operations of separate brain regions or brain networks, we demonstrate that it is possible to understand the body of neuroimaging evidence using a framework that relies on domain general, distributed structure-function mappings. We review current research in affective and social neuroscience and argue that the emerging science of large-scale intrinsic brain networks provides a coherent framework for a domain-general functional architecture of the human brain.
Affect is a fundamental aspect of the human mind. An increasing number of experiments attempt to examine the influence of affect on other psychological phenomena. To accomplish this research, it is necessary to experimentally modify participants' affective states. In the present experiment, we compared the efficacy of four commonly used affect induction procedures. Participants (38 healthy undergraduate students: 18 males) were randomly assigned to either a pleasant or an unpleasant affect induction group, and then underwent four different affect induction procedures: (1) recall of an affectively salient event accompanied by affectively congruent music, (2) script-driven guided imagery, (3) viewing images while listening to affectively congruent music, and (4) posing affective facial actions, body postures, and vocal expressions. All four affect induction methods were successful in inducing both pleasant and unpleasant affective states. The viewing image with music and recall with music procedures were most effective in enhancing positive affect, whereas the viewing image with music procedure was most effective in enhancing negative affect. Implications for the scientific study of affect are discussed.
affect induction; procedure; self-report; comparison; efficacy
Research on the “emotional brain” remains centered around the idea that emotions like fear, happiness, and sadness result from specialized and distinct neural circuitry. Accumulating behavioral and physiological evidence suggests, instead, that emotions are grounded in core affect – a person's fluctuating level of pleasant or unpleasant arousal. A neuroimaging study revealed that participants' subjective ratings of valence (i.e., pleasure/displeasure) and of arousal evoked by various fear, happiness, and sadness experiences correlated with neural activity in specific brain regions (orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala, respectively). We observed these correlations across diverse instances within each emotion category, as well as across instances from all three categories. Consistent with a psychological construction approach to emotion, the results suggest that neural circuitry realizes more basic processes across discrete emotions. The implicated brain regions regulate the body to deal with the world, producing the affective changes at the core of emotions and many other psychological phenomena.
Some individuals have very specific and differentiated emotional experiences, such as anger, shame, excitement, and happiness, whereas others have more general affective experiences of pleasure or discomfort that are not as highly differentiated. Considering that individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) have cognitive deficits for negative information, we predicted that people with MDD would have less differentiated negative emotional experiences than would healthy people. To test this hypothesis, we assessed participants' emotional experiences using a 7-day experience-sampling protocol. Depression was assessed using structured clinical interviews and the Beck Depression Inventory-II. As predicted, individuals with MDD had less differentiated emotional experiences than did healthy participants, but only for negative emotions. These differences were above and beyond the effects of emotional intensity and variability.
emotions; depression; happiness; emotional control; individual differences
The brain stores information in an associative manner so that contextually related entities are connected in memory. Such associative representations mediate the brain’s ability to generate predictions about other objects and events to expect in a given context. Likewise, the brain encodes and is able to rapidly retrieve the affective value of stimuli in our environment. That both contextual associations and affect serve as building blocks of numerous mental functions often makes interpretation of brain activation ambiguous. A critical brain region where such activation has often resulted in equivocal interpretation is the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), which has been implicated separately in both affective and associative processing. To characterize its role more unequivocally, we tested whether activity in mOFC was most directly attributable to affective processing, associative processing, or to a combination of both. Participants performed an object recognition task while undergoing fMRI scans. Objects varied independently in their affective valence and in their degree of association with other objects (associativity). Analyses revealed an overlapping sensitivity whereby left mOFC responded both to increasingly positive affective value and to stronger associativity. These two properties individually accounted for mOFC response, even after controlling for their interrelationship. The role of mOFC is either general enough to encompass both associations that link stimuli with reinforcing outcomes and with other stimuli, or abstract enough to use both valence and associativity in conjunction to inform downstream processes related to perception and action. These results may further point to a fundamental relationship between associativity and positive affect.
For the last century, there has been a continuing debate about the nature of emotion. In the most recent offering in this scientific dialogue, Lench, Flores, and Bench (2011) report a meta-analysis of emotion induction research and claim support for the natural kind hypothesis that discrete emotions (e.g., happiness, sadness, anger, and anxiety) elicit specific changes in cognition, judgment, behavior, experience, and physiology. In this paper, we point out that Lench et al. (2011) is not the final word on the emotion debate. First, we point out that Lench et al.’s findings do not support their claim that discrete emotions organize cognition, judgment, experience, and physiology because they did not demonstrate emotion-consistent and -specific directional changes in these measurement domains. Second, we point out that Lench et al.’s findings are in fact consistent with the alternative (a psychological constructionist approach to emotion). We close by appealing for a construct validity approach to emotion research, which we hope will lead to greater consensus on the operationalization of the natural kind and psychological construction approaches, as well as the criteria required to finally resolve the emotion debate.
emotion; natural kinds; psychological construction; construct validity; meta-analysis
The ‘faculty psychology’ approach to the mind, which attempts to explain mental function in terms of categories that reflect modular ‘faculties’, such as emotions, cognitions, and perceptions, has dominated research into the mind and its physical correlates. In this paper, we argue that brain organization does not respect the commonsense categories belonging to the faculty psychology approach. We review recent research from the science of emotion demonstrating that the human brain contains broadly distributed functional networks that can each be re-described as basic psychological operations that interact to produce a range of mental states, including, but not limited to, anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and so on. When compared to the faculty psychology approach, this ‘constructionist’ approach provides an alternative functional architecture to guide the design and interpretation of experiments in cognitive neuroscience.
Scientists have traditionally assumed that different kinds of mental states (e.g., fear, disgust, love, memory, planning, concentration, etc.) correspond to different psychological faculties that have domain-specific correlates in the brain. Yet, growing evidence points to the constructionist hypothesis that mental states emerge from the combination of domain-general psychological processes that map to large-scale distributed brain networks. In this paper, we report a novel study testing a constructionist model of the mind in which participants generated three kinds of mental states (emotions, body feelings, or thoughts) while we measured activity within large-scale distributed brain networks using fMRI. We examined the similarity and differences in the pattern of network activity across these three classes of mental states. Consistent with a constructionist hypothesis, a combination of large-scale distributed networks contributed to emotions, thoughts, and body feelings, although these mental states differed in the relative contribution of those networks. Implications for a constructionist functional architecture of diverse mental states are discussed.
constructionist; emotion; thought; body feelings; intrinsic networks
Studies of the effect of affect on perception often show consistent directional effects of a person’s affective state on perception. Unpleasant emotions have been associated with a “locally focused” style of stimulus evaluation, and positive emotions with a “globally focused” style. Typically, however, studies of affect and perception have not been conducted under the conditions of perceptual uncertainty and behavioral risk inherent to perceptual judgments outside the laboratory. We investigated the influence of perceivers’ experience affect (valence and arousal) on the utility of social threat perception by combining signal detection theory and behavioral economics. We created three perceptual decision environments that systematically differed with respect to factors that underlie uncertainty and risk: the base rate of threat, the costs of incorrect identification threat, and the perceptual similarity of threats and non-threats. We found that no single affective state yielded the best performance on the threat perception task across the three environments. Unpleasant valence promoted calibration of response bias to base rate and costs, high arousal promoted calibration of perceptual sensitivity to perceptual similarity, and low arousal was associated with an optimal adjustment of bias to sensitivity. However, the strength of these associations was conditional upon the difficulty of attaining optimal bias and high sensitivity, such that the effect of the perceiver’s affective state on perception differed with the cause and/or level of uncertainty and risk.
threat perception; valence; arousal; signal detection theory; utility
The measurement of the volume of the human amygdala in vivo has received increasing attention over the past decade, but existing methods face several challenges. First, due to the amorphous appearance of the amygdala and the difficulties in interpreting its boundaries, it is common for protocols to omit sizable sections of the rostral and dorsal regions of the amygdala comprising parts of the basolateral complex (BL) and central nucleus (Ce), respectively. Second, segmentation of the amgydaloid complex into separate subdivisions is challenging due to the resolution of routinely acquired images and the lack of standard protocols. Recent advances in technology have made ultra-high resolution MR images available, and in this study we provide a detailed segmentation protocol for manually tracing the whole amygdala that incorporates a greater portion of the rostral and dorsal sections with techniques illustrated in detail to maximize reproducibility. In addition, we propose a geometrically-based protocol for segmenting the amygdala into four component subregions of interest (sROI), which correspond largely to amygdala subnuclear divisions: the BL sROI, centromedial (CM) sROI, basomedial (BM) sROI, and the amygdaloid cortical (ACo) sROI. We performed an intra- and inter-rater reliability study of our methods in 10 adults (5 young adults and 5 older adults). The results indicate that both protocols can be implemented with a high degree of reliability (the majority of intra-rater and inter-rater correlations were >0.81). This protocol should aid further research into the alterations in amygdala anatomy, connectivity, and function that accompany normal aging and pathology associated with neuropsychiatric disorders.
Amygdala; Segmentation; MRI; Subnuclei; Parcellation
We investigated whether interferon-inducible genes (IFIGs) with known anti–human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) activity in vitro were associated with in vivo virological response in HIV infection. Nine untreated HIV-1–infected volunteers were treated for 12 weeks with peginterferon alfa-2a. A subset of IFIGs (23 of 47) increased compared with baseline through 6 weeks beyond therapy, and 10 of the 23 IFIGs significantly inversely correlated (r = −0.7; P < .05) with virological response. The strength of peginterferon alfa-2a–induced IFIG response significantly correlated with declines in HIV load during treatment (r2 = 0.87, p = .003). This study links HIV virological response to a specific IFIG subset, a potential prognostic indicator in peginterferon alfa-2a–treated patients with HIV infection.
Meta-analytic summaries of neuroimaging studies point to at least two major functional-anatomic subdivisions within the anterior insula that contribute to the detection and processing of salient information: a dorsal region that is routinely active during attention tasks and a ventral region that is routinely active during affective experience. In two independent samples of cognitively normal human adults, we used intrinsic functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging to demonstrate that the right dorsal and right ventral anterior insula are nodes in separable large-scale functional networks. Furthermore, stronger intrinsic connectivity within the right dorsal anterior insula network was associated with better performance on a task involving attention and processing speed whereas stronger connectivity within the right ventral anterior insula network was associated with more intense affective experience. These results support the hypothesis that the identification and manipulation of salient information is subserved by at least two brain networks anchored in the right anterior insula that exhibit distinct large-scale topography and dissociable behavioral correlates.
dorsal anterior insula; ventral anterior insula; intrinsic functional connectivity; individual differences; attention; processing speed; affective experience
In this article, we review the differences between momentary, retrospective, and trait self-report techniques and discuss the unique role that ambulatory reports of momentary experience play in psychosomatic medicine. Following a brief historical review of self-report techniques, we discuss the latest perspective which links ambulatory self-reports to a qualitatively different conscious self – the ‘experiencing self’– which is functionally and neuroanatomically different from the ‘remembering’ and ‘believing’ selves measured through retrospective and trait questionnaires. The experiencing self functions to navigate current environments and is relatively more tied to the salience network and corporeal information from the body that regulates autonomic processes. As evidence, we review research showing that experiences measured through ambulatory assessment have stronger associations with cardiovascular reactivity, cortisol response, immune system function, and threat/reward biomarkers compared to memories or beliefs. By contrast, memories and beliefs play important roles in decision making and long-term planning, but they are less tied to bodily processes and more tied to default/long-term memory networks, which minimizes their sensitivity for certain research questions. We conclude with specific recommendations for using self-report questionnaires in psychosomatic medicine and suggest that intensive ambulatory assessment of experiences may provide greater sensitivity for connecting psychological with biological processes.
ecological momentary assessment; PANAS; emotion; memory bias; stress; questionnaires
Using resting-state functional MRI data from two independent samples of healthy adults, we parsed the amygdala’s intrinsic connectivity into three partially-distinct large-scale networks that strongly resemble the known anatomical organization of amygdala connectivity in rodents and monkeys. Moreover, in a third independent sample, we discovered that people who fostered and maintained larger and more complex social networks not only had larger amygdala volumes, but also amygdalae with stronger intrinsic connectivity within two of these networks, one putatively subserving perceptual abilities and one subserving affiliative behaviors. Our findings were anatomically specific to amygdalar circuitry in that individual differences in social network size and complexity could not be explained by the strength of intrinsic connectivity between nodes within two networks that do not typically involve the amygdala (i.e., the mentalizing and mirror networks), and were behaviorally specific in that amygdala connectivity did not correlate with other self-report measures of sociality.
Mindfulness training aims to impact emotion regulation. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms can be successfully addressed through mindfulness-based interventions. This preliminary study is the first to investigate neural mechanisms of symptom improvements in GAD following mindfulness training. Furthermore, we compared brain activation between GAD patients and healthy participants at baseline. 26 patients with a current DSM-IV GAD diagnosis were randomized to an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR, N = 15) or a stress management education (SME, N = 11) active control program. 26 healthy participants were included for baseline comparisons. BOLD response was assessed with fMRI during affect labeling of angry and neutral facial expressions. At baseline, GAD patients showed higher amygdala activation than healthy participants in response to neutral, but not angry faces, suggesting that ambiguous stimuli reveal stronger reactivity in GAD patients. In patients, amygdala activation in response to neutral faces decreased following both interventions. BOLD response in ventrolateral prefrontal regions (VLPFC) showed greater increase in MBSR than SME participants. Functional connectivity between amygdala and PFC regions increased significantly pre- to post-intervention within the MBSR, but not SME group. Both, change in VLPFC activation and amygdala–prefrontal connectivity were correlated with change in Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) scores, suggesting clinical relevance of these changes. Amygdala–prefrontal connectivity turned from negative coupling (typically seen in down-regulation of emotions), to positive coupling; potentially suggesting a unique mechanism of mindfulness. Findings suggest that in GAD, mindfulness training leads to changes in fronto-limbic areas crucial for the regulation of emotion; these changes correspond with reported symptom improvements.
•GAD patients show higher amygdala activation to neutral faces than healthy subjects.•In GAD patients, amygdala activation decreased after stress reduction interventions.•Ventrolateral PFC activation during affect labeling increases following mindfulness.•Amygdala–PFC functional connectivity increases following mindfulness.•These changes following mindfulness correlate with improvements in anxiety symptoms.
Generalized anxiety disorder; Emotion regulation; Mindfulness; Intervention; Longitudinal; Amygdala; Prefrontal cortex; Connectivity; Ventrolateral prefrontal cortex; Beck Anxiety Inventory; Stress
Psychological construction approaches to emotion suggest that emotional experience is situated and dynamic. Fear, for example, is typically studied in a physical danger context (e.g., threatening snake), but in the real world, it often occurs in social contexts, especially those involving social evaluation (e.g., public speaking). Understanding situated emotional experience is critical because adaptive responding is guided by situational context (e.g., inferring the intention of another in a social evaluation situation vs. monitoring the environment in a physical danger situation). In an fMRI study, we assessed situated emotional experience using a newly developed paradigm in which participants vividly imagine different scenarios from a first-person perspective, in this case scenarios involving either social evaluation or physical danger. We hypothesized that distributed neural patterns would underlie immersion in social evaluation and physical danger situations, with shared activity patterns across both situations in multiple sensory modalities and in circuitry involved in integrating salient sensory information, and with unique activity patterns for each situation type in coordinated large-scale networks that reflect situated responding. More specifically, we predicted that networks underlying the social inference and mentalizing involved in responding to a social threat (in regions that make up the “default mode” network) would be reliably more active during social evaluation situations. In contrast, networks underlying the visuospatial attention and action planning involved in responding to a physical threat would be reliably more active during physical danger situations. The results supported these hypotheses. In line with emerging psychological construction approaches, the findings suggest that coordinated brain networks offer a systematic way to interpret the distributed patterns that underlie the diverse situational contexts characterizing emotional life.
emotion; situated cognition; affective neuroscience; affect; cognitive neuroscience
Despite numerous studies on the role of medial temporal lobe structures in Alzheimer's disease (AD), the magnitude and clinical significance of amygdala atrophy has been relatively sparsely investigated. In this study we compared the level of amygdala atrophy to that of the hippocampus in very mild and mild AD subjects in two large samples (Sample 1 n=90; Sample 2 n=174). Using a series of linear regression analyses, we investigated whether amygdala atrophy is related to global cognitive functioning (Clinical Dementia Rating Sum of Boxes: CDR-SB; Mini Mental State Examination: MMSE) and neuropsychiatric status. Results indicated that amygdala atrophy was comparable to hippocampal atrophy in both samples. MMSE and CDR-SB were strongly related to amygdala atrophy, with amygdala atrophy predicting MMSE scores as well as hippocampal atrophy, but predicting CDR-SB scores less robustly. Amygdala atrophy was related to aberrant motor behavior, with potential relationships to anxiety and irritability. These results suggest that the magnitude of amygdala atrophy is comparable to that of the hippocampus in the earliest clinical stages of AD, and is related to global illness severity. There also appear to be specific relationships between the level of amygdala atrophy and neuropsychiatric symptoms that deserve further investigation.
Hippocampus; Magnetic resonance imaging; Neuropsychiatric symptoms
Influenza infection may be more serious in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals, therefore, vaccination against seasonal and pandemic strains is highly advised. Seasonal influenza vaccines have had no significant negative effects in well controlled HIV infection, but the impact of adjuvanted pandemic A/California/07/2009 H1N1 influenza hemaglutinin (HA) vaccine, which was used for the first time in the Canadian population as an authorized vaccine in autumn 2009, has not been extensively studied.
Assess vaccine-related effects on CD4+ T cell counts and humoral responses to the vaccine in individuals attending the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial HIV clinic.
A single dose of ArepanrixTM split vaccine including 3.75 μg A/California/07/2009 H1N1 HA antigen and ASO3 adjuvant was administered to 81 HIV-infected individuals by intramuscular injection. Plasma samples from shortly before, and 1–5 months after vaccination were collected from 80/81 individuals to assess humoral anti-H1N1 HA responses using a sensitive microbead-based array assay. Data on CD4+ T cell counts, plasma viral load, antiretroviral therapy and patient age were collected from clinical records of 81 individuals.
Overall, 36/80 responded to vaccination either by seroconversion to H1N1 HA or with a clear increase in anti-H1N1 HA antibody levels. Approximately 1/3 (28/80) had pre-existing anti-H1N1 HA antibodies and were more likely to respond to vaccination (22/28). Responders had higher baseline CD4+ T cell counts and responders without pre-existing antibodies against H1N1 HA were younger than either non-responders or responders with pre-existing antibodies. Compared to changes in their CD4+ T cell counts observed over a similar time period one year later, vaccine recipients displayed a minor, transient fall in CD4+ T cell numbers, which was greater amongst responders.
We observed low response rates to the 2009 pandemic influenza vaccine among HIV-infected individuals without pre-existing antibodies against H1N1 HA and a minor transient fall in CD4+ T cell numbers, which was accentuated in responders. A single injection of the ArepanrixTM pandemic A/California/07/2009 H1N1 HA split vaccine may be insufficient to induce protective immunity in HIV-infected individuals without pre-existing anti-H1N1 HA responses.
HIV; influenza; pandemic; A/California/07/2009 H1N1 HA antigen; AS03 oil in water adjuvant; inflammation; CD4+ T cells; age
It seems obvious that what you see influences what you feel, but what if the opposite were also true? What if how you feel can shape your visual experience? In this experiment, we demonstrate that the affective state of a perceiver influences the contents of visual awareness. Participants received positive, negative, and neutral affect inductions and then completed a series of binocular rivalry trials in which a face (smiling, scowling or neutral) was presented to one eye and a house to the other. The percepts “competed” for dominance in visual consciousness. We found, as predicted, that all faces (smiling, scowling, and neutral) were dominant for longer when perceivers experienced unpleasant affect compared to when they were in a neutral state (a social vigilance effect), although scowling faces increased their dominance when perceivers felt unpleasant (a relative negative congruence effect). Relatively speaking, smiling faces increased their dominance more when perceivers were experiencing pleasant affect (a positive congruence effect). These findings illustrate that the affective state of a perceiver serves as a context that influences the contents of consciousness.
Affect; Perception; Binocular Rivalry
Perceiving the affective valence of objects influences how we think about and react to the world around us. Conversely, the speed and quality with which we visually recognize objects in a visual scene can vary dramatically depending on that scene’s affective content. Although typical visual scenes contain mostly “everyday” objects, the affect perception in visual objects has been studied using somewhat atypical stimuli with strong affective valences (e.g., guns or roses). Here we explore whether affective valence must be strong or overt to exert an effect on our visual perception. We conclude that everyday objects carry subtle affective valences – “micro-valences” – which are intrinsic to their perceptual representation.
affective valence; visual object perception; object recognition; micro-valence; object preference
Financial planning decisionss are fundamentally affective in nature; they are decisions related to money, longevity and quality of life. Over the next several decades people will be increasingly responsible for managing their own assets and investments, and they will be subject to the affective influences on active, personal decision-making. Many of these crucial decisions are made and revised across the lifespan, including when to buy or sell a home, how to save for childrens’ education, how to manage healthcare costs, when to retire, how much to save for retirement and how to allocate retirement funds. As average life expectancy increases, many retirees will be faced with inadequate savings to live comfortably until the end of their lives. In the current article, we examine the problems of and potential solutions to inadequate financial planning through the lens of affective science, with an emphasis on how brain-based changes in affective processing with age might contribute to the challenge of financial planning.
affect; neuroscience; retirement; decision-making; aging
According to the Conceptual Act Theory of Emotion, the situated conceptualization used to construe a situation determines the emotion experienced. A neuroimaging experiment tested two core hypotheses of this theory: (1) different situated conceptualizations produce different forms of the same emotion in different situations, (2) the composition of a situated conceptualization emerges from shared multimodal circuitry distributed across the brain that produces emotional states generally. To test these hypotheses, the situation in which participants experienced an emotion was manipulated. On each trial, participants immersed themselves in a physical danger or social evaluation situation and then experienced fear or anger. According to Hypothesis 1, the brain activations for the same emotion should differ as a function of the preceding situation (after removing activations that arose while constructing the situation). According to Hypothesis 2, the critical activations should reflect conceptual processing relevant to the emotion in the current situation, drawn from shared multimodal circuitry underlying emotion. The results supported these predictions and demonstrated the compositional process that produces situated conceptualizations dynamically.
Categorical perception (CP) occurs when items in a series of continuously varying stimuli are perceived as belonging to discrete categories. Thereby, perceivers are more accurate at discriminating between stimuli of different categories than between stimuli within the same category (Harnad, 1987; Goldstone, 1994). The current experiments investigated whether the structural information in the face is sufficient for CP to occur. Alternatively, a perceiver’s conceptual knowledge, by virtue of expertise or verbal labeling, might contribute. In two experiments, people who differed in their conceptual knowledge (in the form of expertise, Experiment 1, or verbal label learning, Experiment 2) categorized chimpanzee facial expressions. Expertise alone did result in enhanced CP. Only when perceivers were first trained to associate faces with a label were they more likely to show CP. Overall, the results suggest that the structural information in the face alone is often insufficient for CP; CP is enhanced by verbal labeling.
facial expressions; emotion; categorical perception; verbal labeling; expertise