The effect of left and right poses on the expression of facial emotion Academic Article uri icon


  • Research, using composite facial photographs has demonstrated that left-left composites are more emotionally expressive than are right-right composites. The present study investigated whether hemifacial asymmetries in expression are apparent in photographs, that feature one side of the face more than the other. Photographs were taken of the models who turned their heads: (a) 15 degrees to the left, (b) 15 degrees to the right or (c) faced directly towards the camera. It was predicted that left hemiface and midline photographs would be judged as more emotionally expressive than right hemiface photographs, where the left hemiface is less prominent. Three hundred and eighty-four participants viewed photographs of the three posing conditions, and rated each photograph along an emotional expressivity scale. Midline and left hemiface portraits were rated as more emotionally expressive than were right hemiface portraits. To investigate whether this effect was caused by observer's aesthetic/perceptual biases, mirror-reversed versions of the three posing conditions were included. Left hemiface and midline portraits were rated as more emotionally expressive, irrespective of whether they were mirror-reversed. It was concluded that head turns of just 15 degrees can bring about significant changes in the perceived emotionality. The relevance of these findings to painted portraits, which feature the left hemiface more than the right, is discussed.

publication date

  • January 2002