Education and the Attribution of Emotion to Facial Expressions

Nicole M Trauffer, Sherri C Widen, James A Russell


Certain facial expressions have been proposed to be signals evolved to communicate a single specific emotion. Evidence to support this view is based primarily on university-educated Western adults. In the current study (N=96), university-educated and non-university-educated Americans were asked to label purported facial expressions of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. Participants with no university education were significantly less likely to label the "fear face" as scared or the "disgust face" as disgusted, but more likely to label the "anger face" as angry and the "sad face" as sad. Education was also related to overall use of disgusted and angry – an effect that might help explain differences in labeling faces.


education; recognition; facial expression; universality; emotion

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