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: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>