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.
Jon Hogdal | alfa
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