Perspectiva Filosófica 46 (2):116-142 (2019)

Felipe Nogueira de Carvalho
Federal University of Minas Gerais
From all aspects of non-verbal behavior, the face is undoubtedly one of the richest and most important sources of information about the internal states of others. But facial expressions are rarely perceived in isolation. On the contrary, they are embedded in rich, dynamic social contexts that include body gestures and postures, situational knowledge, and so on. On the basis of these observations, we can naturally wonder if the overall context in which the face is embedded can change how emotions are perceived in facial expressions. If so, in what ways, and what are the limits of these contextual effects? The purpose of this paper is to explore some possibilities concerning the role of context in emotion perception, from basic emotion theory, who holds that discrete emotion categories can be read out directly from the face in an invariant manner, to more contemporary approaches that assign a constitutive role for context in emotion perception. Although the debate is far from settled, the conclusions of the paper will point to a new way of looking at emotional phenomena, where the dyad of interaction becomes the basic unit of analysis, and where emotions are conceived as emergent properties of a relationship in particular contexts of interaction.
Keywords Emotions  Emotion perception  Facial expressions  Social Cognition
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