Inherently ambiguous: Facial expressions of emotions, in context

Ran R. Hassin*, Hillel Aviezer, Shlomo Bentin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


With a few yet increasing number of exceptions, the cognitive sciences enthusiastically endorsed the idea that there are basic facial expressions of emotions that are created by specific configurations of facial muscles. We review evidence that suggests an inherent role for context in emotion perception. Context does not merely change emotion perception at the edges; it leads to radical categorical changes. The reviewed findings suggest that configurations of facial muscles are inherently ambiguous, and they call for a different approach towards the understanding of facial expressions of emotions. Prices of sticking with the modal view, and advantages of an expanded view, are succinctly reviewed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)60-65
Number of pages6
JournalEmotion Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • basic emotions
  • body perception
  • context
  • emotion perception


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