Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hard to keep a straight face

22.10.2002


It’s hard to keep a straight face, and especially difficult if you meet someone who looks angry or happy. This the conclusion drawn from experiments carried out by Ulf Dimberg, professor of psychology at Uppsala University, Sweden, and his associates. The results, which are presented in the journal Cognition and Emotion, show that we are not in full control of our facial muscles: their reactions are controlled by unconscious mechanisms.

It is well known that emotions find direct expression in our body language, gestures, and facial appearances, and these expressions of feeling are anchored in special, biologically given, so-called “affective programs.” One question facing researchers is to what extent these reactions are conscious and can be controlled or whether they are tied to unconscious mechanisms.

In his research Ulf Dimberg has studied the association of facial expressions to emotional reactions and has published acclaimed results showing that even if pictures of, say, angry or happy faces are exposed so quickly that they cannot be consciously perceived, people being tested react in the form of rapid responses in their own facial muscles that mirror the expressions they have been unconsciously exposed to.



This may be one important mechanism for “emotional contagion” to occur.

In the study now being presented in Cognition and Emotion, Ulf Dimberg and his associates have instructed volunteers in three different experiments to consciously control their facial muscles on different occasions by quickly either frowning, smiling, or not reacting at all to pictures of angry and happy faces. Movements of their facial muscles were registered with the help of so-called electromyographic technology, EMG.

The results show that the volunteers could not entirely control the reactions of their facial muscles even though they were intentionally trying to do so. On the other hand, it was easier to react to angry faces with the corrugator muscles (the frowning muscle) and to smile at happy faces. But when the instructions were just the opposite of the emotion shown in the picture, that is, to smile at angry faces and to frown at happy ones, it was more difficult to make the facial muscles obey. It was even the case that despite the fact that the volunteers consciously tried not to react at all, they could not curb their reactions in the frowning muscle when shown angry faces or in their smiling muscle when shown happy faces.

In other words, it seems to be difficult to protect us from the contagious effect of the facial expressions of other people.

These results indicate that the reactions of our facial muscles are partially controlled by unconscious mechanisms and support the theory that our emotional expressions are controlled by biologically given “affective programs.” The findings are especially interesting in that we communicate with our fellow human beings in face-to-face situations. We have all had the experience of believing we can control our bodily expressions in such a situation—that we can hang a poker face—but the results of this study suggest that we react automatically and in a predetermined way to the facial expressions of others—reactions that we cannot control at will.

Jon Hogdal | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uu.se

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Sibling differences: Later-borns choose less prestigious programs at university
14.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

nachricht Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ
09.11.2017 | Vanderbilt University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>