The Impact of a Stranger’s Emotional Facial Expression on the Perception of His Personality



This study the role of emotional expressions of the sitter’s face in the perception of his personality traits. The scores given by observers on the scales of the “Personality Differential” for images of a calm face and the face of the same sitter, demonstrating six basic emotions, were compared. Forty-nine photographic images of the emotional states of seven sitters included in the RaFD database were used as stimulus material. A total of 193 Moscow university students (66 men and 127 women, mean age 23.3 years) participated in the experiment. A 17% statistically significant change in personality scores was recorded, two-thirds of which tended toward the positive poles of the scales. Changing perceptions of a person’s personality suggests a coherent relationship between emotion modality and personality traits. Each basic expression influences a specific group of 10-15 traits, and in different ways. Each trait relies on an affective configuration with its own specificity. Disgust has the maximum integrative influence on the view of the sitter’s personality. Joy causes extremely high positive changes, while sadness and astonishment cause moderate, symmetrical changes in the ratio of positive and negative shifts. Fear and anger lead to an equilibrium of positive and negative evaluations. The highest volume of trait changes is obtained for the “Activity” factor (A), which is associated mainly with positive shifts, the lowest volume is for the “Evaluation” factor (E), which is, together with the “Strength” factor (S), the main source of negative changes in the sitters’ perception. The volume of affective feature shifts is determined by the morphotype of the face and the individual stylistics of emotion expression. In everyday life, the possibility of affective changes in traits does not violate the general invariance of interpersonal perception.

General Information

Keywords: activity-related experience, quality of motivation, self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, academic motivation

Journal rubric: Psychology of Perception

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project № 19-013-00557.

Received: 17.10.2021


For citation: Barabanschikov V.A., Zhegallo A.V., Smolny Y.N., Marinova M.M. The Impact of a Stranger’s Emotional Facial Expression on the Perception of His Personality. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2021. Vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 23–42. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2021140402. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Vladimir A. Barabanschikov, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Corresponding Member of Russian Academy of Education, Director, Institute of Experimental Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Alexander V. Zhegallo, PhD in Psychology, Senior Researcher, Institute of Experimental Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Yaser N. Smolny, Research Engineer, Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Mariya M. Marinova, Assistant Director of the Institute of Experimental Psychology, Academic Services Specialist, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Postgraduate Student, Moscow Institute of Psychoanalysis, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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