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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02496

The Effects of Facial Attractiveness and Familiarity on Facial Expression Recognition

  • 1South China Normal University, China
  • 2Independent researcher, China
  • 3Beijing Institute of Educational Sciences, China

The classic theory of face perception holds that the invariant (e.g., identity and race) and variant (e.g., expression) dimensions of face information are independent of one another. Two separate neural systems are involved in face processing. However, the dynamic theory of face perception indicates that these two neural systems interact bidirectionally. Accordingly, by using the emotion categorization task and morph movies task, we investigated the influence of facial attractiveness on facial expression recognition and provided further evidence supporting the dynamic theory of face perception in both the static and dynamic contexts. In addition, this research used familiar celebrities (including actors, television personalities, politicians, and comedians) and explored the role of familiarity in face perception. In two experiments, the participants were asked to assess the expressions of faces with different levels of attractiveness and different levels of familiarity. We found that regardless of being in a static or dynamic face situation, happy expressions on attractive faces can be recognized more quickly, highlighting the advantage of happy expression recognition. Moreover, in static and dynamic familiar face situations, familiarity has a greater impact on expression recognition, and the influence of attraction on expression recognition may be weakened or even unaffected. Our results show that facial attractiveness influences the recognition of facial expressions in both static and dynamic contexts and highlight the importance of familiarity in face perception.

Keywords: dynamic theory of face perception, Face, attractiveness, Expression recognition, Familiarity

Received: 10 May 2019; Accepted: 22 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Li, He, Zhou, Zhao, Zhao and Xianyou. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. He Xianyou, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, 510631, Guangdong Province, China,