Facial emotion recognition and borderline personality pathology

Kevin B. Meehan, Chiara De Panfilis, Nicole M. Cain, Camilla Antonucci, Antonio Soliani, John F. Clarkin, Fabio Sambataro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The impact of borderline personality pathology on facial emotion recognition has been in dispute; with impaired, comparable, and enhanced accuracy found in high borderline personality groups. Discrepancies are likely driven by variations in facial emotion recognition tasks across studies (stimuli type/intensity) and heterogeneity in borderline personality pathology. This study evaluates facial emotion recognition for neutral and negative emotions (fear/sadness/disgust/anger) presented at varying intensities. Effortful control was evaluated as a moderator of facial emotion recognition in borderline personality. Non-clinical multicultural undergraduates (n = 132) completed a morphed facial emotion recognition task of neutral and negative emotional expressions across different intensities (100% Neutral; 25%/50%/75% Emotion) and self-reported borderline personality features and effortful control. Greater borderline personality features related to decreased accuracy in detecting neutral faces, but increased accuracy in detecting negative emotion faces, particularly at low-intensity thresholds. This pattern was moderated by effortful control; for individuals with low but not high effortful control, greater borderline personality features related to misattributions of emotion to neutral expressions, and enhanced detection of low-intensity emotional expressions. Individuals with high borderline personality features may therefore exhibit a bias toward detecting negative emotions that are not or barely present; however, good self-regulatory skills may protect against this potential social-cognitive vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-354
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Borderline personality
  • Effortful control
  • Facial emotion recognition
  • Negative affect
  • Self-regulation
  • Social cognition


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