On Perceiving Facial Expressions: the Role of Culture and Context

Nalini Ambady and Max Weisbuch

in Oxford Handbook of Face Perception

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559053
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

On Perceiving Facial Expressions: the Role of Culture and Context

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  • Cognitive Psychology



Facial expressions have communicative properties that bear some importance to perceivers. Such expressions are informative with respect to the future behavior of the expressing individual and with respect to the conditions of the broader social environment. This article argues that appropriate responses to facial expressions are an important means by which people adapt to their social ecology. The immediate responses to facial expressions depend on contextual factors. It is more important for individuals to adapt to the ingroup than to other groups, for this reason people should exhibit special sensitivity to ingroup facial expressions. It reviews the literature regarding the role of context in the recognition of facial expressions and regarding group membership and emotion recognition, with a special emphasis on the role of culture. It focuses on facial expressions of emotion if only because of available empirical literature.

Keywords: facial expressions; social ecology; culture; behavior; group membership; emotion recognition

Article.  5646 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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