The use of aftereffects in the study of relationships among emotion categories.
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The perception of visual aftereffects has been long recognized, and these aftereffects reveal a relationship between perceptual categories. Thus, emotional expression aftereffects can be used to map the categorical relationships among emotion percepts. One might expect a symmetric relationship among categories, but an evolutionary, functional perspective predicts an asymmetrical relationship. In a series of 7 experiments, the authors tested these predictions. Participants fixated on a facial expression, then briefly viewed a neutral expression, then reported the apparent facial expression of the 2nd image. Experiment 1 revealed that happy and sad are opposites of one another; each evokes the other as an aftereffect. The 2nd and 3rd experiments reveal that fixating on any negative emotions yields an aftereffect perceived as happy, whereas fixating on a happy face results in the perception of a sad aftereffect. This suggests an asymmetric relationship among categories. Experiments 4-7 explored the mechanism driving this effect. The evolutionary and functional explanations for the category asymmetry are discussed.
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