ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (8): 963-970.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00963

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Comparison of Facial Expressions and Body Expressions:  An Event-related Potential Study

ZHANG Dandan; ZHAO Ting; LIU Yunzhe; CHEN Yuming   

  1. (Institute of Affective and Social Neuroscience, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, China)
  • Received:2014-12-16 Published:2015-08-25 Online:2015-08-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Dandan, E-mail:


Facial expressions and body expressions are both important emotion carriers in everyday communication and interaction. However, cognitive neuroscience in the field of emotion focuses mainly on the brain mechanism of facial expression processing and leave many problems of the body expression processing largely unsolved. The current study employed the event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine the time course of fearful and neutral body/face processing in 40 healthy adults. A total of 40 pictures of faces and 40 pictures of bodies were selected from Chinese facial and body picture systems. The experimental participants were required to discriminate the emotion (fear or neutral) of each picture (presented for 300 ms) as fast as possible. The task consisted of two blocks (face and body) of 120 trials each. Blocks were separated by self-terminated breaks. The order of the two blocks was counterbalanced across subjects. Stimulus display and behavioral data acquisition were conducted using E-Prime software. Brain electrical activity was recorded referentially against left mastoid and off-line re-referenced to average reference, by a 64-channel amplifier using a standard 10-20 system (Brain Products). The results of this study help to answer three question on the processing of fearful face and body expressions. First, the emotional carrier does influence the processing of fearful information. It is found that compared with facial expressions, the occipital P1 was larger in response to body expressions. Another finding in the early processing stage is that, similar with facial emotion processing, the brain could discriminate fearful and neutral bodies as early as approximately 100 ms post stimulus, reflected by a larger P1 in the fearful body condition. Second, the ERP components of N170 and VPP showed similar results in response to fearful facial and body expressions. The two components discriminated fearful and neutral faces but not bodies. In addition, compared with facial expressions, body expressions evoked smaller and slower N170/VPP, indicating that the brain in this processing stage allocated less cognitive resources to body expressions. Finally, the P3 component differed not only between body and face conditions, but also fearful and neutral conditions, suggesting a comprehensive processing of emotional information. The current result indicated that facial and body expressions had similar processing dynamics in the form of ERP data. Compared with facial expressions, it is seemed that the brain prefers body expressions at the early processing stage (the P1 time window). It is hoped that the current results regarding the emotional processing of facial and body expressions will be helpful for our understanding of the mechanisms of the emotional brain. The investigated ERP components in this study are potential biomarkers for the diagnosis of emotional disorders.

Key words: body expression, facial expression, event-related potential