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Katrin Heimann

How context influences the interpretation of facial expressions: a source localization high-density EEG study on the “Kuleshov effect”

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  • Marta Calbi, Department of Medicine and Surgery, Unit of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Parma, Italy, Italy
  • Francesca Siri, Department of Medicine and Surgery, Unit of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Parma, Italy
  • ,
  • Katrin Heimann
  • Daniel Barratt, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • Vittorio Gallese, Universitá degli Studi di Parma, Univ London, University of London, University of London School of Advanced Study, Inst Philosophy, Sch Adv Study, Italy
  • Anna Kolesnikov , Universitá degli Studi di Parma, Italy
  • Maria Alessandra Umiltà, Univ Parma, University of Parma, Dept Food & Drug Sci, Italy
Few studies have explored the specificities of contextual modulations of the processing of facial expressions at a neuronal level. This study fills this gap by employing an original paradigm, based on a version of the filmic “Kuleshov effect”. High-density EEG was recorded while participants watched film sequences consisting of three shots: the close-up of a target person’s neutral face (Face_1), the scene that the target person was looking at (happy, fearful or neutral), and another close-up of the same target person’s neutral face (Face_2). The participants’ task was to rate both valence and arousal, and subsequently to categorize the target person’s emotional state. The results indicate that despite a significant behavioural ‘context’ effect, the electrophysiological indexes still indicate that the face is evaluated as neutral. Specifically, Face_2 elicited a high amplitude N170 when preceded by neutral contexts, and a high amplitude Late Positive Potential (LPP) when preceded by emotional contexts, thus showing sensitivity to the evaluative congruence (N170) and incongruence (LPP) between context and Face_2. The LPP activity was mainly underpinned by brain regions involved in facial expressions and emotion recognition processing. Our results shed new light on temporal and neural correlates of context-sensitivity in the interpretation of facial expressions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2107
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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