The effect of facial expressions on the evaluation of ambiguous statements

Meeten, Frances, Ivak, Peter, Dash, Suzanne, Knowles, Sam, Duka, Theodora, Scott, Ryan, Kaiser, Jakob and Davey, Graham C L (2015) The effect of facial expressions on the evaluation of ambiguous statements. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 6 (3). pp. 253-263. ISSN 2043-8087

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Abstract

The present experiment adapted the “Voluntary Facial Action” (VFA) technique (Dimberg & Söderkvist, 2011) to study the effect of facial expressions on the interpretation of ambiguity. This required participants to react with either the zygomatic major muscles (smile) or the corrugator supercilii muscles (frown) when
exposed to different stimuli, some of which were ambiguous statements. While contracting the required facial muscles, participants also rated each stimulus on a negative-positive scale. Results indicated that participants contracting smiling muscles during ambiguous statements rated those statements as significantly more
positive than participants contracting frowning-relevant muscles. This effect remained significant in participants who were unaware of the purpose of the experiment, and
unaware that the experiment was related to mood. Previous studies have demonstrated that facial expressions can reflect the valency of a bias in responding to ambiguous
stimuli (e.g. Neta et al., 2009), but the present study goes further by suggesting that facial expressions can actively influence the interpretation of stimuli as complex as verbal statements. Some of the implications for the way in which facial expressions may influence cognitive processes relevant to psychopathology are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Facial Expression; Mood; Ambiguity evaluation
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Depositing User: Lene Hyltoft
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2015 11:54
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 20:18
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/55988

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