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Facial emotion recognition in borderline personality disorder

  • A. R. Daros (a1), K. K. Zakzanis (a1) and A. C. Ruocco (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 13 November 2012

Emotion dysregulation represents a core symptom of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Deficits in emotion perception are thought to underlie this clinical feature, although studies examining emotion recognition abilities in BPD have yielded inconsistent findings.


The results of 10 studies contrasting facial emotion recognition in patients with BPD (n = 266) and non-psychiatric controls (n = 255) were quantitatively synthesized using meta-analytic techniques.


Patients with BPD were less accurate than controls in recognizing facial displays of anger and disgust, although their most pronounced deficit was in correctly identifying neutral (no emotion) facial expressions. These results could not be accounted for by speed/accuracy in the test-taking approach of BPD patients.


Patients with BPD have difficulties recognizing specific negative emotions in faces and may misattribute emotions to faces depicting neutral expressions. The contribution of state-related emotion perception biases to these findings requires further clarification.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: A. C. Ruocco, Ph.D., C.Psych., Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaM1C 1A4. (Email:
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