Bidirectional contextual influence between faces and bodies in emotion perception

Maya Lecker*, Ron Dotsch, Gijsbert Bijlstra, Hillel Aviezer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Recent evidence shows that body context may alter the categorization of facial expressions. However, less is known about how facial expressions influence the categorization of emotional bodies. We hypothesized that context effects would be displayed bidirectionally, from bodies to faces and from faces to bodies. Participants viewed emotional face-body compounds and were required to categorize emotions of faces (Condition 1), bodies (Condition 2), or full persons (Condition 3). Results showed evidence for bidirectional context effects: faces were influenced by bodies, and bodies were influenced by faces. However, because the specific confusability patterns differ for faces and bodies (e.g., disgust and anger expressions are confusable in the face, but less so in the body) we found unique patterns of contextual influence in each expression channel. Together, the findings suggest that the emotional expressions of faces and bodies contextualize each other bidirectionally and that emotion categorization is sensitive to the perceptual focus determined by task instructions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1154-1164
Number of pages11
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Body language
  • Cognitive control
  • Facial expressions
  • Social cognition
  • Visual integration


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