Compassionate faces: Evidence for distinctive facial expressions associated with specific prosocial motivations
AuthorsFalconer, Caroline, J.
Lobmaier, Janek, S.
Kamboj, Sunjeev, K.
King, John, A.
Brewin, Chris, R.
AffiliationDepartment of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, United Kingdom
Institute of Psychology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
University of Derby
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AbstractCompassion is a complex cognitive, emotional and behavioural process that has important real-world consequences for the self and others. Considering this, it is important to understand how compassion is communicated. The current research investigated the expression and perception of compassion via the face. We generated exemplar images of two compassionate facial expressions induced from two mental imagery tasks with different compassionate motivations (Study 1). Our kind- and empathic compassion faces were perceived differently and the empathic-compassion expression was perceived as best depicting the general definition of compassion (Study 2). Our two composite faces differed in their perceived happiness, kindness, sadness, fear and concern, which speak to their underling motivation and emotional resonance. Finally, both faces were accurately discriminated when presented along a compassion continuum (Study 3). Our results demonstrate two perceptually and functionally distinct facial expressions of compassion, with potentially different consequences for the suffering of others.
CitationFalconer C. J., Lobmaier J. S., Christoforou M., et al. (2019) 'Compassionate faces: Evidence for distinctive facial expressions associated with specific prosocial motivations'. PLoS ONE 14(1), pp. 1-17. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210283
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