Naming emotions in motion: Alexithymic traits impact the perception of implied motion in facial displays of affect

Carl Senior, Stefanie Hassel, Arisha Waheed, Nathan Ridout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Something akin to motion perception occurs when actual motion is not present but implied. However, it is not known if the experience of implied motion occurs during the perception of static faces nor if the effect would vary for different facial expressions. To examine this, participants were presented with pairs of faces where successive expressions depicted either increasing emotional intensity or its diminution. Participants indicated if the second face in the pair was the same as, or different from, the first face shown. To measure general facial emotion recognition ability, the Ekman 60 faces test was administered. As individual differences in depression, anxiety, and alexithymia have been shown to influence face processing, we measured these factors using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS) and the Toronto Alexithymia scale (TAS-20). As expected, participants were more likely to endorse the second face as being a match to the first when its expression implied forward motion compared to backward motion. This effect was larger for happiness and fear and positively related to accuracy on the Ekman 60 faces task. The effect was not related to depression or anxiety but it was negatively related to scores on the difficulty identifying feelings subscale of the TAS-20, suggesting that individuals who have problems identifying their own and others' feelings experienced a reduction in implied motion. Observers process implied motion from some facial expressions of emotion but the experience is modified by the ability to recognize one's own feelings and those of others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-316
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Early online date3 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2019 American Psychological Association. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.


  • Affect perception
  • Alexithymia
  • Facial expressions of emotion
  • Implied motion
  • Representational momentum
  • Motion
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Facial Expression
  • Male
  • Affect
  • Emotions
  • Young Adult
  • Fear
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Anxiety/psychology
  • Affective Symptoms/psychology
  • Depression/psychology
  • Motion Perception


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