The relationship between the experience of emotion and facial expression recognition ability

PhD Thesis

Newton, Rachael. (2022). The relationship between the experience of emotion and facial expression recognition ability [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University School of Behavioural and Health Sciences
AuthorsNewton, Rachael
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

The ability to recognise facial expressions of emotion is crucial to our ability to function as social beings, informing a number of important social judgements (Willis et al., 2011b). It has been well established that facial expression recognition ability improves over the course of childhood (e.g., Rodger et al., 2015) and decreases in older adulthood (e.g., Ruffman et al., 2008). Some theories suggest that facial expression recognition ability is associated with our experience, and expression of our own emotions (Goldman & Sripada, 2005). Thus, across three studies, this thesis used emotional film clips to examine how subjective emotional experience, facial expressivity (measured using automated facial coding software), emotional concordance (i.e., the relationship between experience and expressivity), and emotion regulation induced in a single task predict performance on a facial expression recognition task. The first study assessed these relationships across two samples of young adults (Experiment 1: n = 114; Experiment 2: n = 116). Key findings indicated that, in some instances, emotional concordance is a positive predictor of facial expression recognition accuracy, while expressive suppression is a negative predictor. The second study of this thesis examined age-related differences in subjective emotional experience, facial expressivity, emotional concordance, emotion regulation, and facial expression recognition by comparing a sample of older adults (60-85 years; n = 42) to a sample of younger adults (n = 42). This study was the first to demonstrate that older adults demonstrate significantly lower emotional concordance compared to their younger counterparts. The third study of this thesis involved development of a novel film task to induce and measure discrete emotions in children (6-12 years; n = 66), and examined the relationship between subjective emotional experience, facial expressivity, emotional conceptual knowledge, and facial expression recognition ability. This study validated 10 film clips to be used for inducing and measuring discrete emotions in children. Taken together, the findings of this thesis suggest that emotional concordance may play an important role in facial expression recognition, and that the degree of emotional concordance one experiences declines in older adulthood. Additionally, this thesis contributes significantly by advancing research methods to investigate the development of emotion in childhood, by introducing a novel tool for the induction and measurement of emotion in children.

Keywordsfacial expression recognition; subjective emotional experience; facial expressivity; concordance; children; older adults; adults; emotion regulation
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Page range1-272
Final version
File Access Level
Supplementary Files (Layperson Summary)
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online09 Jun 2022
Publication process dates
Completed14 Oct 2021
Deposited09 Jun 2022
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