Embodiment in affective evaluations: the case of the facial feedback effect

Kaiser, Jakob (2017) Embodiment in affective evaluations: the case of the facial feedback effect. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Theories of embodiment propose that our bodily states can influence affective processing. This thesis investigated the possibility that facial feedback (i.e., afferent signals from facial muscles) can influence the interpretation of affective stimuli. One study tested the effect of overt smiling and frowning on the interpretation of short descriptions of everyday events. Smiling, as compared to frowning, led to more positive evaluations, but only for participants who were aware of the emotional relevance of their expressions. A second study tested whether subtle changes in facial activation (elicited by unconsciously presented happy/angry facial expressions) led to changes in evaluations of ambiguous target symbols. While angry prime faces, as compared to happy prime faces, induced more frowning (as measured via electromyography), this change in facial activation did not translate into a behavioural effect on subsequent evaluations. A third study investigated the relation between naturally occurring facial reactions and interpretations of both clearly valenced and ambiguous facial expressions. Results indicate that facial reactivity predicts participants’ self-reports of their own emotional reactions towards others’ expressions (Experiment 1). A relation between facial reactions and interpretations of the expression senders’ emotional states was only found in cases in which participants with high sensitivity towards their own bodily states (as measured with a test of interoceptive accuracy) tried to interpret ambiguous expressions (Experiment 2). In a last experiment, prolonged presentation of emotional prime faces led to expression-congruent facial reactions, but resulted in expression-incongruent behavioural reactions in both classification speed and interpretative tendency of emotional target faces. Overall, this thesis suggests that facial feedback is not generally involved in the interpretation of affective stimuli, but that it might contribute to evaluative processes only under special circumstances.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0636 Applied psychology > BF0637 Special topics A-Z > BF0637.N66 Nonverbal communication. Body language Including eye contact, gesture, etc.
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2017 16:30
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2017 16:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/68523

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