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Effects of Orientation on Recognition of Facial AffectThe ability to discriminate facial features is often degraded when the orientation of the face and/or the observer is altered. Previous studies have shown that gross distortions of facial features can go unrecognized when the image of the face is inverted, as exemplified by the 'Margaret Thatcher' effect. This study examines how quickly erect and supine observers can distinguish between smiling and frowning faces that are presented at various orientations. The effects of orientation are of particular interest in space, where astronauts frequently view one another in orientations other than the upright. Sixteen observers viewed individual facial images of six people on a computer screen; on a given trial, the image was either smiling or frowning. Each image was viewed when it was erect and when it was rotated (rolled) by 45 degrees, 90 degrees, 135 degrees, 180 degrees, 225 degrees and 270 degrees about the line of sight. The observers were required to respond as rapidly and accurately as possible to identify if the face presented was smiling or frowning. Measures of reaction time were obtained when the observers were both upright and supine. Analyses of variance revealed that mean reaction time, which increased with stimulus rotation (F=18.54, df 7/15, p (is less than) 0.001), was 22% longer when the faces were inverted than when they were erect, but that the orientation of the observer had no significant effect on reaction time (F=1.07, df 1/15, p (is greater than) .30). These data strongly suggest that the orientation of the image of a face on the observer's retina, but not its orientation with respect to gravity, is important in identifying the expression on the face.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Cohen, M. M.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Mealey, J. B.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Hargens, Alan R.
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1997
Subject Category
Cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence And Robotics
Meeting Information
Meeting: Aerospace Medical Association Annual Meeting
Location: Chicago, IL
Country: United States
Start Date: May 11, 1997
End Date: May 15, 1997
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 199-16-12-40
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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