Andrea Hildebrandt, Annekathrin Schacht, Werner Sommer and Oliver Wilhelm

Measuring the speed of recognising facially expressed emotions.

Cognition and Emotion

Faces provide identity- and emotion-related information—basic cues for mastering social interactions. Traditional models of face recognition suggest that following a very first initial stage the processing streams for facial identity and expression depart. In the present study we extended our previous multivariate investigations of face identity processing abilities to the speed of recognising facially expressed emotions. Analyses are based on a sample of N = 151 young adults. First, we established a measurement model with a higher order factor for the speed of recognising facially expressed emotions (SRE). This model has acceptable fit without specifying emotion-specific relations between indicators. Next, we assessed whether SRE can be reliably distinguished from the speed of recognising facial identity (SRI) and found latent factors for SRE and SRI to be perfectly correlated. In contrast, SRE and SRI were both only moderately related to a latent factor for the speed of recognising non-face stimuli (SRNF). We conclude that the processing of facial stimuli—and not the processing of facially expressed basic emotions—is the critical component of SRE. These findings are at variance with suggestions of separate routes for processing facial identity and emotional facial expressions and suggest much more communality between these streams as far as the aspect of processing speed is concerned.