Detecting genuine and deliberate displays of surprise in static and dynamic faces

Zloteanu, Mircea, Krumhuber, Eva G. and Richardson, Daniel C. (2018) Detecting genuine and deliberate displays of surprise in static and dynamic faces. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1184), ISSN (print) 1664-1078


People are good at recognizing emotions from facial expressions, but less accurate at determining the authenticity of such expressions. We investigated whether this depends upon the technique that senders use to produce deliberate expressions, and on decoders seeing these in a dynamic or static format. Senders were filmed as they experienced genuine surprise in response to a jack-in-the-box (Genuine). Other senders faked surprise with no preparation (Improvised) or after having first experienced genuine surprise themselves (Rehearsed). Decoders rated the genuineness and intensity of these expressions, and the confidence of their judgment. It was found that both expression type and presentation format impacted decoder perception and accurate discrimination. Genuine surprise achieved the highest ratings of genuineness, intensity, and judgmental confidence (dynamic only), and was fairly accurately discriminated from deliberate surprise expressions. In line with our predictions, Rehearsed expressions were perceived as more genuine (in dynamic presentation), whereas Improvised were seen as more intense (in static presentation). However, both were poorly discriminated as not being genuine. In general, dynamic stimuli improved authenticity discrimination accuracy and perceptual differences between expressions. While decoders could perceive subtle differences between different expressions (especially from dynamic displays), they were not adept at detecting if these were genuine or deliberate. We argue that senders are capable of producing genuine-looking expressions of surprise, enough to fool others as to their veracity.

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