Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 914–922 | Cite as

Automaticity of the interpersonal attitude effect on facial mimicry: It takes effort to smile at neutral others but not those we like

  • Heidi S. Blocker
  • Daniel N. McIntosh
Original Paper


People often mimic others more if the other is liked, a member of an ingroup, or in a cooperative relationship with the observer; we call this the interpersonal attitude effect. This study examines the degree to which this attitude effect on mimicry is an automatic or an effortful process. While under cognitive load or no load, participants observed positive, negative, and neutral others making emotional expressions. Electromyography measured corrugator supercilii (knits brow) and zygomaticus major (raises corners of mouth) activity. Under load, participants mimicked smiles of positive individuals but not neutral or negative individuals. During no-load trials, participants did not mimic negative individuals, but did mimic smiles of neutral and positive individuals. Participants enhanced their smiles in response to the smiles of liked others without effort, but smiling at neutral others’ smiles required greater cognitive resources.


Emotional expressions Automatic processes Mimicry Liking EMG 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DenverDenverUSA

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