Expressive Control and Emotion Perception: the Impact of Expressive Suppression and Mimicry on Sensitivity to Facial Expressions of Emotion
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Recent studies have linked expressive suppression to impairments in interpersonal functioning, but the mechanism underlying this relationship has not been well articulated. One possibility is that the individual who engages in expressive suppression is impaired in perceiving the emotions of others, a critical ability in successful interpersonal functioning. In the current study, participants were presented with a series of photographs of facial expressions that were manipulated so that they appeared to "morph" from neutral into full emotion expressions. As they viewed these images, participants were instructed to identify the expression as quickly as possible, by selecting one of the six emotion labels (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust) on the screen. Prior to this task, participants were randomized to one of three groups: instructed to mimic the expressions on the screen, instructed to suppress all emotion expressions, or not given specific instructions on how to control expressions (the control group). The speed with which participants accurately identified emotional expressions (emotion sensitivity) was the primary variable of interest. Overall, participants in the suppression condition were found to be slower to accurately identify emotions, while no statistically-significant differences were found between the mimicry and no-instructions conditions. The decreased emotion sensitivity in the suppression group could not be accounted for by impulsive responding, decreased sensitivity at full expression, or perceived difficulty of task.
Facial feedback hypothesis
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