15th Annual Scholarship (April 2014)

​             made to  Dr. Gary Lewis from England

on the subject of Functional architecture of emotion recognition ability: A latent variable approach

Report Abstract (504 words):

The ability to recognise the emotions of others represents a critical component of human socio-cognitive capacities (Bruce & Young, 2012) and as a consequence emotion recognition has been a focus of considerable attention for many decades (e.g. Darwin, 1872). However, despite this interest, individual differences in emotion recognition ability have been largely overlooked and thus are poorly understood (cf. Scherer & Scherer, 2011; but see Matsumoto et al., 2000; Rozin et al., 2005; Schlegel et al., 2012, Suzuki et al., 2010). For example, limited knowledge exists concerning whether recognition ability for one emotion (e.g. disgust) generalizes to other emotions (e.g. anger, fear). Furthermore, it is unclear whether emotion recognition ability generalizes across modalities, such that those who are good are recognizing emotions from (for example) the face are also good at identifying emotions from non-facial cues (such as cues conveyed via the body).

The primary goal of the current study was to address these questions through establishing the structure of individual differences in emotion recognition ability. In two independent samples (Study 1: n=640; Study 2: n=389) we observed that the ability to recognise emotions is based on different sources of variation: a supra-modal emotion-general factor, supra-modal emotion-specific factors, and face- and emotion-specific factors. In addition, we found evidence that general intelligence, autism-like traits, and alexithymia were associated with supra-modal emotion recognition ability. Autism-like traits, empathic concern, and alexithymia were additionally associated with face-specific emotion recognition ability. These results 1) provide a platform for further individual differences research on emotion recognition ability, 2) indicate that differentiating levels within the architecture of emotion recognition ability is of high importance, and 3) show that the capacity to understand expressions of emotion in others is linked to broader affective and cognitive processes.

The Eysenck Memorial Fund award supported the project’s research costs and thus was critical in allowing the studies detailed above to be completed.


Bruce, V. & Young, A.W. (2012) Face perception. Psychology Press: London.

Darwin, C. (1872/1965). The expressions of the emotions in man and animals. Oxford University Press, New York.

Matsumoto, D., LeRoux, J., Wilson-Cohn, C., Raroque, J., Kooken, K., Ekman, P., ... & Goh, A. (2000). A new test to measure emotion recognition ability: Matsumoto and Ekman's Japanese and Caucasian Brief Affect Recognition Test (JACBART). Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24, 179-209.

Rozin, P., Taylor, C., Ross, L., Bennett, G., & Hejmadi, A. (2005). General and specific abilities to recognise negative emotions, especially disgust, as portrayed in the face and the body. Cognition and Emotion, 19, 397-412.

Scherer, K. R., & Scherer, U. (2011). Assessing the ability to recognize facial and vocal expressions of emotion: construction and validation of the Emotion Recognition Index. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 35, 305-326.

Schlegel, K., Grandjean, D., & Scherer, K. R. (2012). Emotion recognition: Unidimensional ability or a set of modality-and emotion-specific skills?. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 16-21.

Suzuki, A., Hoshino, T., & Shigemasu, K. (2010). Happiness is unique: A latent structure of emotion recognition traits revealed by statistical model comparison. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 196-201.


Scholarship 15