One of the crucial features defining basic emotions and their prototypical facial expressions is their value for survival. Childhood traumatic experiences affect the effective recognition of facial expressions of negative emotions, normally allowing the recruitment of adequate behavioral responses to environmental threats. Specifically, anger becomes an extraordinarily salient stimulus unbalancing victims' recognition of negative emotions. Despite the plethora of studies on this topic, to date, it is not clear whether this phenomenon reflects an overall response tendency toward anger recognition or a selective proneness to the salience of specific facial expressive cues of anger after trauma exposure. To address this issue, a group of underage Sierra Leonean Ebola virus disease survivors (mean age 15.40 years, SE 0.35; years of schooling 8.8 years, SE 0.46; 14 males) and a control group (mean age 14.55, SE 0.30; years of schooling 8.07 years, SE 0.30, 15 males) performed a forced-choice chimeric facial expressions recognition task. The chimeric facial expressions were obtained pairing upper and lower half faces of two different negative emotions (selected from anger, fear and sadness for a total of six different combinations). Overall, results showed that upper facial expressive cues were more salient than lower facial expressive cues. This priority was lost among Ebola virus disease survivors for the chimeric facial expressions of anger. In this case, differently from controls, Ebola virus disease survivors recognized anger regardless of the upper or lower position of the facial expressive cues of this emotion. The present results demonstrate that victims' performance in the recognition of the facial expression of anger does not reflect an overall response tendency toward anger recognition, but rather the specific greater salience of facial expressive cues of anger. Furthermore, the present results show that traumatic experiences deeply modify the perceptual analysis of philogenetically old behavioral patterns like the facial expressions of emotions.
Evidence for anger saliency during the recognition of chimeric facial expressions of emotions in underage Ebola survivors / Ardizzi, Martina; Evangelista, Valentina; Ferroni, Francesca; Umiltã , Maria A.; Ravera, Roberto; Gallese, Vittorio. - In: FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY. - ISSN 1664-1078. - 8:JUN(2017), p. 1026. [10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01026]
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