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23-03-2020 | Original Article Open Access

Affective states influence emotion perception: evidence for emotional egocentricity

Psychological Research
Irene Trilla, Anne Weigand, Isabel Dziobek
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Research in social cognition has shown that our own emotional experiences are an important source of information to understand what other people are feeling. The current study investigated whether individuals project their own affective states when reading other’s emotional expressions. We used brief autobiographical recall and audiovisual stimuli to induce happy, neutral and sad transient states. After each emotion induction, participants made emotion judgments about ambiguous faces displaying a mixture of happiness and sadness. Using an adaptive psychophysics procedure, we estimated the tendency to perceive the faces as happy under each of the induced affective states. Results demonstrate the occurrence of egocentric projections, such that faces were more likely judged as happy when participants reported being happy as compared to when they were sad. Moreover, the degree of emotional egocentricity was associated with individual differences in perspective-taking, with smaller biases being observed in individuals with higher disposition to take the perspective of others. Our findings extend previous literature on emotional egocentricity by showing that self-projection occurs when we make emotion attributions based on the other’s emotional expressions, and supports the notion that perspective-taking tendencies play a role in the ability to understand the other’s affective states.

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