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We addressed this question using a recent motion capture and animation system, with which we animated one avatar head with facial movements of three types: (1) emotional, (2) emotional in social interaction and (3) conversational, all recorded from several actors.In a delayed match-to-sample task, observers were best at matching actor identity across conversational movements, worse with emotional movements in social interactions, and at chance level with emotional facial expressions.Using the same task and stimulus generation method, we showed that basic emotional facial movements contained least, whereas conversational facial movements contained most, identity information.However, the absolute amount of identity information we obtained from our motion-captured data is almost certainly underestimated compared to the information contained in real life faces.Our results corroborate and extend existing evidence that facial motion can be used as a cue to identity.While all these studies evidenced the presence of identity information in facial movements, differences in stimuli and task across these studies did not allow for a comparison between amounts of identity information.
From the sender’s side, different types of facial movements may differ in their functional role.
For example, the same wide eyes characteristic of an expression of fear makes it also easier for an observer to discriminate the eye gaze direction of the person experiencing fear, helping to locate the fear-inducing stimulus.
However, to our knowledge, no study systematically investigated the amount of identity information contained in different types of facial movement.
Facial movements convey information about many social cues, including identity.
However, how much information about a person’s identity is conveyed by different kinds of facial movements is unknown.
We based our study on the theoretical viewpoint that emotional and conversational facial movements may differ in their functional role: while emotional facial expressions may be primarily optimized for perception and action, and may thus convey more identity information.