Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Timothy D. Sweeny

Second Advisor

Leanne ten Brinke

Third Advisor

Paige Lloyd

Fourth Advisor

Mohammed Mahoor


Deception, Emotion, Face processing, Facial expressions, Holistic processing


Although a growing body of evidence suggests that genuine and deceptive facial expressions differ, previous work is mixed as to whether observers can discern between them. One explanation is that cues to deception on the face are subtle and not readily perceived by observers. I argue that the way people process faces may obscure these cues, making them ‘unseen’ by observers. In the current work, I pit two hypotheses against each other to test whether interrupting holistic processing improves or impairs the ability to identify deceptive emotional expressions. Since people process faces holistically, one region of the face may interfere with or bias observers’ perception of other regions. Importantly, however, interrupting holistic processing by misaligning faces allows people to more accurately detect emotion expressed in one region with less interference from other regions of the face. Since deceptive expressions involve partial expressions wherein felt emotion ‘leaks out’ in the upper or lower face only, I suggest that interrupting holistic processing will increase observers’ ability to identify the incongruence among the face halves. Alternatively, it is possible that the subjective disfluency experienced when viewing incongruent expressions could be used as a cue to deception, suggesting that holistic processing would facilitate the detection of incongruence. Three studies test these competing hypotheses by asking observers to rate the genuineness of facial expressions that were artificially produced (Pilot Study, Study 1) or real and posed (Study 2). Holistic processing was interrupted by horizontally misaligning faces. Across all studies, the subjective disfluency hypothesis was not supported. Instead, observers rated incongruent (Pilot Study, Study 1) and posed (Study 2) expressions as less genuine when holistic processing was interrupted with misalignment (vs. aligned faces). This interpretation, however, is complicated by the findings for congruent (Study 1) and genuine (Study 2) expressions, wherein misaligned faces were rated as less genuine than aligned faces. Future research should continue to consider how people visually process faces and its impact on veracity judgments. By borrowing insights from vision science, we may better understand factors affecting observers’ ability to detect genuine (vs. deceptive) facial expressions.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Christopher A. Gunderson


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

103 pgs