Center for Human Modeling and Simulation

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Journal Article

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Presence Presence





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Due to varied personal, social, or even cultural situations, people sometimes conceal or mask their true emotions. These suppressed emotions can be expressed in a very subtle way by brief movements called microexpressions. We investigate human subjects’ perception of hidden emotions in virtual faces, inspired by recent psychological experiments. We created animations with virtual faces showing some facial expressions and inserted brief secondary expressions in some sequences, in order to try to convey a subtle second emotion in the character. Our evaluation methodology consists of two sets of experiments, with three different sets of questions. The first experiment verifies that the accuracy and concordance of the participant’s responses with synthetic faces matches the empirical results done with photos of real people in the paper by X.-b. Shen, Q. Wu, and X.-l. Fu, 2012, “Effects of the duration of expressions on the recognition of microexpressions,” Journal of Zhejiang University Science B, 13(3), 221–230. The second experiment verifies whether participants could perceive and identify primary and secondary emotions in virtual faces. The third experiment tries to evaluate the participant’s perception of realism, deceit, and valence of the emotions. Our results show that most of the participants recognized the foreground (macro) emotion and most of the time they perceived the presence of the second (micro) emotion in the animations, although they did not identify it correctly in some samples. This experiment exposes the benefits of conveying microexpressions in computer graphics characters, as they may visually enhance a character’s emotional depth through subliminal microexpression cues, and consequently increase the perceived social complexity and believability

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This is a copy of an article published in the "Investigating Macroexpressions and Microexpressions in Computer Graphics Animated Faces" © 2014 Presence; "Investigating Macroexpressions and Microexpressions in Computer Graphics Animated Faces" is available online at:



Date Posted: 29 February 2016

This document has been peer reviewed.