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07-09-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2019 Open Access

Psychological Research 1/2019

Recognising and reacting to angry and happy facial expressions: a diffusion model analysis

Psychological Research > Uitgave 1/2019
Jason Tipples
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-018-1092-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Researchers have reported two biases in how people recognise and respond to angry and happy facial expressions: (1) a gender-expression bias (Becker et al. in J Pers Soc Psychol, 92(2):179–190, https://​doi.​org/​10.​1037/​0022-3514.​92.​2.​179, 2007)—faster identification of male faces as angry and female faces as happy and (2) an approach–avoidance bias—faster avoidance of people who appear angry and faster approach responses people who appear happy (Heuer et al. in Behav Res The, 45(12):2990–3001, https://​doi.​org/​10.​1016/​j.​brat.​2007.​08.​010 2007; Marsh et al. in Emotion, 5(1), 119–124, https://​doi.​org/​10.​1037/​1528-3542.​5.​1.​119, 2005; Rotteveel and Phaf in Emotion 4(2):156–172, https://​doi.​org/​10.​1037/​1528-3542.​4.​2.​156, 2004). The aim of the current research is to gain insight into the nature of such biases by applying the drift diffusion model to the results of an approach–avoidance task. Sixty-five participants (33 female) identified faces as either happy or angry by pushing and pulling a joystick. In agreement with the original study of this effect (Solarz 1960) there were clear participant gender differences—both the approach avoidance and gender-expression biases were larger in magnitude for female compared to male participants. The diffusion model results extend recent research (Krypotos et al. in Cogn Emot 29(8):1424–1444, https://​doi.​org/​10.​1080/​02699931.​2014.​985635, 2015) by indicating that the gender-expression and approach–avoidance biases are mediated by separate cognitive processes.

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