Rapid Emotional Contagion and Expressive Congruence Under Strong Test Conditions
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The present research examined whether the observation of emotional expressions rapidly induces congruent emotional experiences and facial responses in observers under strong test conditions. Specifically, participants rated their emotional reactions after (a) single, brief exposures of (b) a range of human emotional facial expressions that included (c) a neutral face comparison using a procedure designed to (d) minimize potential experimental demand. Even with these strong test conditions in place, participants reported discrete expression-congruent changes in emotional experience. Participants’ Corrugator supercilii facial muscle activity immediately following the presentation of an emotional expression appeared to reflect expressive congruence with the observed expression and a response indicative of the amount of cognitive load necessary to interpret the observed expression. The complexity of the C. supercilii response suggests caution in using facial muscle activity as a nonverbal measure of emotional contagion.
KeywordsEmotional contagion Emotional expressions Expressive congruence Cognitive load Mimicry EMG
The authors thank Monica Harris, Ursula Hess, and an anonymous reviewer for providing helpful feedback on an earlier draft. David Lishner was supported by NIMH training grant #T32-MH18921 during the collection of data for both studies.
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