The structural transformation generally occurs from lower symmetric to higher symmetric structure on heating. However, the formation of locally broken asymmetric phases upon warming has been evidenced in PbQ (Q = S, Se, Te), a rare phenomenon called emphanisis, which has significant effect on their thermal transport and thermoelectric properties. (SnSe)0.5(AgSbSe2)0.5 crystallizes in rock-salt cubic average structure, with the three cations occupying the same Wycoff site (4a) and Se in the anion position (Wycoff site, 4b). Using synchrotron X-ray pair distribution function (X-PDF) analysis, herein, we show the gradual deviation of the local structure of (SnSe)0.5(AgSbSe2)0.5 from the overall cubic rock-salt structure with warming, resembling emphanisis. The local structural analysis indicates that Se atoms remain in off-centered position by a magnitude of ∼0.25 Å at 300 K along the  direction and the magnitude of this distortion is found to increase with temperature resulting in three short and three long M–Se bonds (M = Sn/Ag/Sb) within the average rock-salt lattice. This hinders phonon propagation and lowers the lattice thermal conductivity (κlat) to 0.49–0.39 W/(m·K) in the 295–725 K range. Analysis of phonons based on density functional theory (DFT) reveals significant soft modes with high anharmonicity which involve localized Ag and Se vibrations primarily. Emphanisis induced low κlat and favorable electronic structure with multiple valence band extrema within close energy concurrently give rise to a promising thermoelectric figure of merit (zT) of 1.05 at 706 K in p-type carrier optimized Ge doped new rock-salt phase of (SnSe)0.5(AgSbSe2)0.5.
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