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Professor Hillel Aviezer, Hebrew University

The distinction between positive and negative facial expressions is assumed to be clear and robust. Nevertheless, research with intense real-life faces has shown that viewers are unable to differentiate the valence of such expressions without the use of body context. Using FACS analysis, we supplied participants with valid information about objective facial activity that could be easily used to differentiate positive from negative expressions. Strikingly, ratings remained virtually unchanged and participants failed to differentiate between positive and negative faces. We propose that the immunity of participants to objectively useful facial information results from stereotypical (but erroneous) inner representations of extreme positive and negative expression. These results have several important implications for automated expression recognition efforts. First, they demonstrate that felt and expressed emotion may dissociate, thus theories of basic expressions may have serious limitations in real-life. Second, they suggest a surprising dissociation between information present in isolated facial expressions and information used by human perceivers. Finally, they highlight the critical role of context in the perception of facial expressions.

Short Bio:
Professor Hillel Aviezer graduated the clinical neuropsychology program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He completed his thesis on contextualized emotion perception under the joint supervision of Professors Shlomo Bentin and Ran Hassin. After obtaining his PhD, he continued to a post-doc in Princeton University, where he worked with Prof. Alex Todorov. At 2012 Aviezer joined the faculty of the psychology department at Hebrew University, where he is currently an associate Professor.
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