The complex emotion expression database: A validated stimulus set of trained actors

Margaret S. Benda, K. Suzanne Scherf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The vast majority of empirical work investigating the mechanisms supporting the perception and recognition of facial expressions is focused on basic expressions. Less is known about the underlying mechanisms supporting the processing of complex expressions, which provide signals about emotions related to more nuanced social behavior and inner thoughts. Here, we introduce the Complex Emotion Expression Database (CEED), a digital stimulus set of 243 basic and 237 complex emotional facial expressions. The stimuli represent six basic expressions (angry, disgusted, fearful, happy, sad, and surprised) and nine complex expressions (affectionate, attracted, betrayed, brokenhearted, contemptuous, desirous, flirtatious, jealous, and lovesick) that were posed by Black and White formally trained, young adult actors. All images were validated by a minimum of 50 adults in a 4-alternative forced choice task. Only images for which ≥ 50% of raters endorsed the correct emotion label were included in the final database. This database will be an excellent resource for researchers interested in studying the developmental, behavioral, and neural mechanisms supporting the perception and recognition of complex emotion expressions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0228248
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

Cite this