People make value judgements about others based on their facial expressions. A new study, carried out be Spanish and Brazilian researchers, shows that after looking at a face for only 100 milliseconds we can detect expressions of happiness and surprise faster than those of sadness or fear.
Our brains get a first impression of people's overriding social signals after seeing their faces for only 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds). Whether this impression is correct, however, is another question. Now an international group of experts has carried out an in-depth study into how we process emotional expressions, looking at the pattern of cerebral asymmetry in the perception of positive and negative facial signals.
The researchers worked with 80 psychology students (65 women and 15 men) to analyze the differences between their cerebral hemispheres using the "divided visual field" technique, which is based on the anatomical properties of the visual system.
"What is new about this study is that working in this way ensures that the information is focused on one cerebral hemisphere or the other", J. Antonio Aznar-Casanova, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the University of Barcelona (UB), tells SINC.
The results, published in the latest issue of the journal Laterality, show that the right hemisphere performs better in processing emotions. "However, this advantage appears to be more evident when it comes to processing happy and surprised faces than sad or frightened ones", the researcher points out.
"Positive expressions, or expressions of approach, are perceived more quickly and more precisely than negative, or withdrawal, ones. So happiness and surprise are processed faster than sadness and fear", explains Aznar-Casanova.
The two faces of the brain
This research study adds to previous ones, which had revealed asymmetries in the way the brain processes emotions, and enriches
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology