Amplification in the evaluation of sequence of faces expressing emotion
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Description: Social interactions are dynamic, and unfold over time. To make sense of social interactions, people must aggregate sequential information into summary, global evaluations. But how do people do this? To address this question, we conducted 9 studies (N= 1,583), using a diverse set of stimuli. Our focus was a central aspect of social interaction, namely the evaluation of others’ emotional responses. Results suggest that when aggregating sequences of images and videos expressing varying degrees of emotions, perceivers overestimate the sequence’s average emotional intensity. This tendency for overestimation, which we term the sequential amplification effect, is driven by stronger memory of more emotional expressions. A computational model further supports the memory account, and shows that amplification cannot be driven merely by perception. The current paper is the first to demonstrate amplification in social cognition of sequential information, which is especially important given the prevalence of such information in many social interactions.
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