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 Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State 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: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>