Simulation in the basic emotion method

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Chapter 3 endnote 7, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

...the short list of emotion words in the basic emotion method ​— ​a technique called a forced choice ​— ​is an unintentional cheat sheet for the test subjects. The words not only limit the available choices but also prompt the subjects to simulate facial configurations for the corresponding emotion concepts, preparing them to see certain emotions and not others.

In the basic emotion method, the facial poses for a given emotion category are highly stereotypic and do not vary much from one to the next. For example, on all "anger" trials, test subjects see a scowling face. This is not quite "if you seen one, you've seen 'em all," but it's pretty close. Throughout the experiment, subjects see the same small set of words to choose from, and so they very quickly learn face-word pairings. After a few trials, a test subject's brain learns the handful of faces that can be expected (e.g., anger is not depicted as a smirk or a lip curl). These expectations are simulations and help test subjects choose the "correct" emotion words throughout the experiment.[1]

Learning of this sort occurs quickly.[2] For example, children learn to "recognize" a nonsense emotion called "pax," depicted with puffy chipmunk cheeks, after just two trials.[3] When naturalistic facial configurations are used, words don’t really help much.[4][5][6] One study takes a different view,[7] but it suffers from a number of methodological weaknesses.[5]

Notes on the Notes

  1. Gendron, Maria, Kristen A. Lindquist, Lawrence Barsalou, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2012. "Emotion words shape emotion percepts." Emotion 12 (2): 314-325.    
  2. Yik, Michelle, Sherri C. Widen, and James A. Russell. 2013. "The within-subjects design in the study of facial expressions." Cognition & Emotion 27 (6): 1062-1072.
  3. Nelson, Nicole L., and James A. Russell. 2016. "A facial expression of pax: Assessing children’s “recognition” of emotion from faces." Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 141: 49-64.
  4. Naab, Pamela J., and James A. Russell. 2007. "Judgments of emotion from spontaneous facial expressions of New Guineans." Emotion 7 (4): 736-744.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Kayyal, Mary H., and James A. Russell. 2013. "Americans and Palestinians judge spontaneous facial expressions of emotion." Emotion 13 (5): 891-904.
  6. Crivelli, Carlos, James A. Russell, Sergio Jarillo, and José-Miguel Fernández-Dols. In press. "Recognizing spontaneous facial expressions of emotion in a small-scale society of Papua New Guinea." Emotion.
  7. Matsumoto, David, Andres Olide, Joanna Schug, Bob Willingham, and Mike Callan. 2009. "Cross-cultural judgments of spontaneous facial expressions of emotion." Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 33 (4): 213-238.