In crowds, where scrutinizing individual facial expressions is inefficient, humans can make snap judgments about the prevailing mood by reading 'crowd emotion'. We investigated how the brain accomplishes this feat in a set of behavioural and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies. Participants were asked to either avoid or approach one of two crowds of faces presented in the left and right visual hemifields. Perception of crowd emotion was improved when crowd stimuli contained goal-congruent cues and was highly lateralized to the right hemisphere. The dorsal visual stream was preferentially activated in crowd emotion processing, with activity in the intraparietal sulcus and superior frontal gyrus predicting perceptual accuracy for crowd emotion perception, whereas activity in the fusiform cortex in the ventral stream predicted better perception of individual facial expressions. Our findings thus reveal significant behavioural differences and differential involvement of the hemispheres and the major visual streams in reading crowd versus individual face expressions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience