DOI: 10.1177/1534582302001001003 ISSN:

Recognizing Emotion from Facial Expressions: Psychological and Neurological Mechanisms

Ralph Adolphs
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Recognizing emotion from facial expressions draws on diverse psychological processes implemented in a large array of neural structures. Studies using evoked potentials, lesions, and functional imaging have begun to elucidate some of the mechanisms. Early perceptual processing of faces draws on cortices in occipital and temporal lobes that construct detailed representations from the configuration of facial features. Subsequent recognition requires a set of structures, including amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, that links perceptual representations of the face to the generation of knowledge about the emotion signaled, a complex set of mechanisms using multiple strategies. Although recent studies have provided a wealth of detail regarding these mechanisms in the adult human brain, investigations are also being extended to nonhuman primates, to infants, and to patients with psychiatric disorders.

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