Motivated by conflicting evidence in the literature, we re-assessed the role of facial feedback when detecting quantitative or qualitative changes in others’ emotional expressions. Fifty-three healthy adults observed self-paced morph sequences where the emotional facial expression either changed quantitatively (i.e.
, sad-to-neutral, neutral-to-sad, happy-to-neutral, neutral-to-happy) or qualitatively (i.e.
from sad to happy, or from happy to sad). Observers held a pen in their own mouth to induce smiling or frowning during the detection task. When morph sequences started or ended with neutral expressions we replicated a congruency effect: Happiness was perceived longer and sooner while smiling; sadness was perceived longer and sooner while frowning. Interestingly, no such congruency effects occurred for transitions between emotional expressions. These results suggest that facial feedback is especially useful when evaluating the intensity of a facial expression, but less so when we have to recognize which emotion our counterpart is expressing.
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