Searching the expressive face: evidence for both the right hemisphere and valence-specific hypotheses

Nicole A. Thomas, Sophie J. Wignall, Tobias Loetscher, Michael E. R. Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Quick and accurate judgments of emotional expressivity and attractiveness facilitate social interactions. Eye tracking was used to examine left/right asymmetries across 2 studies. Fixations to each hemiface, and to the eyes and mouth, when judging attractiveness and emotional expressivity were examined. Overall, more fixations occurred on the left hemiface (from the viewer's point of view), even when mirror-reversed, supporting the suggestion that we intuitively know the left hemiface is more expressive. The right side of the mouth was fixated more when judging happiness, whereas the left eye was fixated more for sadness and the left mouth when rating emotional expressivity. The present findings support the notion that the right hemisphere and valence-specific hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. The right hemisphere hypothesis is supported when assessing global facial qualities (i.e., hemiface); however, hemispheric processing differences emerge when exploring the eyes and mouth. The current findings highlight the importance of not only considering how the face is examined more generally, but of also exploring smaller regions of interest to investigate lateral biases. Future research should therefore include analyses of fixations to the hemifaces, as well as to these smaller regions of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)962-977
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

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