I thought that I heard you laughing: Contextual facial expressions modulate the perception of authentic laughter and crying

Nadine Lavan, Cesar Lima, Hannah Harvey, Sophie K. Scott, Carolyn McGettigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Downloads (Pure)


It is well established that categorising the emotional content of facial expressions may differ depending on contextual information. Whether this malleability is observed in the auditory domain and in genuine emotion expressions is poorly explored. We examined the perception of authentic laughter and crying in the context of happy, neutral and sad facial expressions. Participants rated the vocalisations on separate unipolar scales of happiness and sadness and on arousal. Although they were instructed to focus exclusively on the vocalisations, consistent context effects were found: For both laughter and crying, emotion judgements were shifted towards the information expressed by the face. These modulations were independent of response latencies and were larger for more emotionally ambiguous vocalisations. No effects of context were found for arousal ratings. These findings suggest that the automatic encoding of contextual information during emotion perception generalises across modalities, to purely non-verbal vocalisations, and is not confined to acted expressions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)935-944
Number of pages10
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number5
Early online date22 Sept 2014
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Sept 2014

Cite this