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Impaired perception of facial emotion in developmental prosopagnosia

Biotti, F. & Cook, R. (2016). Impaired perception of facial emotion in developmental prosopagnosia. Cortex, 81, pp. 126-136. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2016.04.008


Developmental prosopagnosia is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by difficulties recognising faces. Despite severe difficulties recognising facial identity, expression recognition is typically thought to be intact in developmental prosopagnosia; case studies have described individuals who are able to correctly label photographic displays of facial emotion, and no group differences have been reported. This pattern of deficits suggests a locus of impairment relatively late in the face processing stream, after the divergence of expression and identity analysis pathways. To date, however, there has been little attempt to investigate emotion recognition systematically in a large sample of developmental prosopagnosics using sensitive tests. In the present study, we describe three complementary experiments that examine emotion recognition in a sample of 17 developmental prosopagnosics. In Experiment 1, we investigated observers’ ability to make binary classifications of whole-face expression stimuli drawn from morph continua. In Experiment 2, observers judged facial emotion using only the eye-region (the rest of the face was occluded). Analyses of both experiments revealed diminished ability to classify facial expressions in our sample of developmental prosopagnosics, relative to typical observers. Imprecise expression categorisation was particularly evident in those individuals exhibiting apperceptive profiles, associated with problems encoding facial shape accurately. Having split the sample of prosopagnosics into apperceptive and non-apperceptive subgroups, only the apperceptive prosopagnosics were impaired relative to typical observers. In our third experiment, we examined the ability of observers’ to classify the emotion present within segments of vocal affect. Despite difficulties judging facial emotion, the prosopagnosics exhibited excellent recognition of vocal affect. Contrary to the prevailing view, our results suggest that many prosopagnosics do experience difficulties classifying expressions, particularly those with apperceptive profiles. These individuals may have difficulties forming view-invariant structural descriptions at an early stage in the face processing stream, before identity and expression pathways diverge.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Publisher Keywords: Developmental prosopagnosia; Expression recognition; Facial emotion; Vocal emotion; Face perception
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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