• Affective theory of mind inferences contextually influence the recognition of emotional facial expressions

      Stewart, Suzanne L. K.; Schepman, Astrid; Haigh, Matthew; McHugh, Rhian; Stewart, Andrew; University of Chester; Northumbria University; University of Manchester (Taylor & Francis, 2018-03-14)
      The recognition of emotional facial expressions is often subject to contextual influence, particularly when the face and the context convey similar emotions. We investigated whether spontaneous, incidental affective theory of mind inferences made while reading vignettes describing social situations would produce context effects on the identification of same-valenced emotions (Experiment 1) as well as differently-valenced emotions (Experiment 2) conveyed by subsequently presented faces. Crucially, we found an effect of context on reaction times in both experiments while, in line with previous work, we found evidence for a context effect on accuracy only in Experiment 1. This demonstrates that affective theory of mind inferences made at the pragmatic level of a text can automatically, contextually influence the perceptual processing of emotional facial expressions in a separate task even when those emotions are of a distinctive valence. Thus, our novel findings suggest that language acts as a contextual influence to the recognition of emotional facial expressions for both same and different valences.
    • Right-ear precedence and vocal emotion contagion: The role of the left hemisphere

      Schepman, Astrid; Rodway, Paul; Cornmell, Louise; Smith, Bethany; Lauren de Sa, Sabrina; Borwick, Ciara; Belfon-Thompson, Elisha; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2017-08-02)
      Much evidence suggests that the processing of emotions is lateralized to the right hemisphere of the brain. However, under some circumstances the left hemisphere might play a role, particularly for positive emotions and emotional experiences. We explored whether emotion contagion was right-lateralized, lateralized valence-specifically, or potentially left-lateralized. In two experiments, right-handed female listeners rated to what extent emotionally intoned pseudo-sentences evoked target emotions in them. These sound stimuli had a 7 ms ear lead in the left or right channel, leading to stronger stimulation of the contralateral hemisphere. In both experiments, the results revealed that right ear lead stimuli received subtly but significantly higher evocation scores, suggesting a left hemisphere dominance for emotion contagion. A control experiment using an emotion identification task showed no effect of ear lead. The findings are discussed in relation to prior findings that have linked the processing of emotional prosody to left-hemisphere brain regions that regulate emotions, control orofacial musculature, are involved in affective empathy processing areas, or have an affinity for processing emotions socially. Future work is needed to eliminate alternative interpretations and understand the mechanisms involved. Our novel binaural asynchrony method may be useful in future work in auditory laterality.