Reading the Mind in the Blink of an Eye - A novel database for facial expressions

Gunnar Schmidtmann, Daria Sleiman, Jordan Pollock, Ian Gold

The ability to infer emotions, or mental states of others, referred to as theory-of-mind (ToM), has traditionally been understood as a slow, conscious process. It has recently been suggested that some aspects of ToM occur automatically. We aimed to investigate the automaticity of ToM with respect to specific emotional states. The ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test (Baron-Cohen et al. 2001) was utilized. A 4-AFC paradigm was employed to test the ability to correctly judge the emotional state of peoples’ eye-region for different presentation times (12.5 to 400 ms, & indefinite). With the exception of the indefinite condition, the stimuli were always followed by a mask (neutral expression) with the same presentation time. Sensitivity to the stimuli increases with increasing presentation time up to about 75% correct response for 400 ms, but does not increase for longer presentation times. Moreover, despite consistent participants’ reports of guessing, they performed well above chance. These results support the hypothesis that judging complex facial expressions from just the eye regions is an automatic and unconscious process.  Additionally, we introduce a completely new database of 93 different facial expressions, based on the terms used by Baron-Cohen et al. (2001). Two professional actors were recruited to interpret the facial expressions. High quality pictures were taken under controlled lightening and perspective conditions in front view and slightly rotated. 

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AuthorGunnar Schmidtmann