Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Authenticity Affects the Recognition of Emotions in Speech: Behavioral and fMRI Evidence

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Authenticity Affects the Recognition of Emotions in Speech: Behavioral and fMRI Evidence

Article excerpt

Abstract The aim of the present study was to determine how authenticity of emotion expression in speech modulates activity in the neuronal substrates involved in emotion recognition. Within an fMRI paradigm, participants judged either the authenticity (authentic or play acted) or emotional content (anger, fear, joy, or sadness) of recordings of spontaneous emotions and reenactments by professional actors. When contrasting between task types, active judgment of authenticity, more than active judgment of emotion, indicated potential involvement of the theory of mind (ToM) network (medial prefrontal cortex, temporoparietal cortex, retrosplenium) as well as areas involved in working memory and decision making (BA 47). Subsequently, trials with authentic recordings were contrasted with those of reenactments to determine the modulatory effects of authenticity. Authentic recordings were found to enhance activity in part of the ToM network (medial prefrontal cortex). This effect of authenticity suggests that individuals integrate recollections of their own experiences more for judgments involving authentic stimuli than for those involving play-acted stimuli. The behavioral and functional results show that authenticity of emotional prosody is an important property influencing human responses to such stimuli, with implications for studies using play-acted emotions.

Keywords Prosody . Mentalizing . Episodic memory . Affect . Intonation . Theory of mind


The ability to feign emotions is presumed to be uniquely human and is not only relevant to the ability to deceive others, but also forms the foundation for the dramatic arts. In turn, pretense (Cowie et al., 2001; Ekman, Friesen, & O'Sullivan, 1988), pretend play (Rakoczy & Tomasello, 2006), and social deception are all key topics of interest in theory of mind (ToM) research (Bänziger & Scherer, 2007; C. Frith & Frith, 2007; Hoekert, Vingerhoets, & Aleman, 2010; Premack & Woodruff, 1978). Importantly, although little is known about the potential impacts of acting on emotion expression and perception (Goldstein, 2009), a large portion of research into emotion perception makes use of stimulus material obtained from actors.

Studies on human emotion expression that employ acted behavior either focus on prototypical behavior or assume acting to be analogous to authentic emotional expression, both in terms of its production by the sender and its effect on the receiver (Belin, Fillion- Bilodeau, & Gosselin, 2008; Ethofer et al., 2006; Hietanen, Surakka, & Linnankoski, 1998; Laukka, 2005). However, findings on social deception (Adolphs, 2009; Ekman, Davidson, & Friesen, 1990; Frick, 1985; Grezes, Berthoz, & Passingham, 2006; Scherer, 1986) and, recently, feigning emotions (Scheiner & Fischer, 2011; Wilting, Krahmer, & Swerts, 2006) indicate that acted behaviors may differ from more naturally occurring ones. Scheiner and Fischer collected 80 noninstructed "authentic" speech recordings of four emotional expression categories (20 each of anger, sadness, joy, and fear) from German radio archives and had each reenacted by a professional actor. Recordings were presented to participants from three separate cultures (Germany, Romania, Indonesia) in forced choice rating tasks of emotional content and recording condition ("authentic" vs. "play-acted"). Although participants were poor at distinguishing between conditions (only slightly above chance), these nevertheless influenced recognition of emotional content: Across all three cultures, anger was recognized more accurately when play acted, and sadness when authentic.

The principal goal of the present study was to determine what specific neuronal substrates are active during judgments on emotion and authenticity and, in a second step, whether stimulus authenticity additionally modulates the activation during these tasks. Participants were presented with emotionand authenticity-judgment tasks in an fMRI setup to determine the activation loci involved during these explicit tasks. …

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