Poster E12, Monday, March 27, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Emotional mimicry beyond the face: Rapid face and body responses to facial expressions
Catherine Reed1, Eric Moody2, Tara Van Bommel3, Betsy App3, Daniel McIntosh3; 1Claremont McKenna College, 2University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 3University of Denver
Emotional mimicry—quick and spontaneous matching of another’s expressions—is a well-documented phenomenon and is associated with numerous social outcomes. Although the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not fully understood, there is growing awareness that mimicry is more than a one-to-one motor matching of others’ expressions (Hess & Fischer, 2013). Simulation theory (Wood, et al, 2016) suggests that when observing an emotional expression, the observer’s brain simulates that emotion, and that activity may “spill-over” into other cortical areas leading to mimicry. If true, this could lead to rapid muscle reactions beyond the face. This study explored this possibility by exposing participants to facial expressions of emotions while taking electromyographic (EMG) recordings over face and arm muscles. As expected, we found that passively viewing faces with negative expressions (anger and fear) resulted in the typical facial mimicry response: participants deferentially activated their corrugator muscles in response to angry faces and frontalis muscles in response to fearful faces [F(1,44)= 9.20, p = 0.004, ηp2= 0.07]. Of interest, we also found corresponding emotion-specific response in arm muscles even though no body information was presented: in response to anger faces, flexor muscles were activated that are part of making a fist and in response to fear faces, extensor muscles were activated that are part of lifting the hands for a defensive posture [F(1,44)= 5.49, p = 0.02, ηp2= 0.11]. Consistent with embodiment theory, this suggests that observers simulate observed emotions and that activity may spill-over to other areas.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotional responding