Emotional actions are coded via two mechanisms: with and without identity representation

Joanna Wincenciak, Jennie Ingham, Tjeerd Jellema, Nicholas Edward Barraclough

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Accurate perception of an individual’s identity and emotion derived from their actions and behavior is essential for successful social functioning. Here we determined the role of identity in the representation of emotional whole-body actions using visual adaptation paradigms. Participants adapted to actors performing different whole-body actions in a happy and sad fashion. Following adaptation subsequent neutral actions appeared to convey the opposite emotion.We demonstrate two different emotional action aftereffects showing distinctive adaptation characteristics. For one short-lived aftereffect, adaptation
to the emotion expressed by an individual resulted in biases in the perception of
the expression of emotion by other individuals, indicating an identity-independent representation of emotional actions. A second, longer lasting, aftereffect was observed where adaptation to the emotion expressed by an individual resulted in longer-term biases in the perception of the expressions of emotion only by the same individual; this indicated an additional identity-dependent representation of emotional actions. Together, the presence of these two aftereffects indicates the existence of two mechanisms for coding emotional actions, only one of which takes into account the actor’s identity. The results that we observe might parallel processing of emotion from face and voice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number693
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2016


  • adaptation
  • vision
  • action
  • action observation
  • emotion
  • emotion recognition
  • visual recognition

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