Associations between Cognitive Concepts of Self and Emotional Facial Expressions with an Emphasis on Emotion Awareness

Peter Walla, Aimee Mavratzakis
2021 Psych  
Recognising our own and others' emotions is vital for healthy social development. The aim of the current study was to determine how emotions related to the self or to another influence behavioural expressions of emotion. Facial electromyography (EMG) was used to record spontaneous facial muscle activity in nineteen participants while they passively viewed negative, positive and neutral emotional pictures during three blocks of referential instructions. Each participant imagined themself,
more » ... person or no one experiencing the emotional scenario, with the priming words "You", "Him" or "None" presented before each picture for the respective block of instructions. Emotion awareness (EA) was also recorded using the TAS-20 alexithymia questionnaire. Corrugator supercilii (cs) muscle activity increased significantly between 500 and 1000 ms post stimulus onset during negative and neutral picture presentations, regardless of ownership. Independent of emotion, cs activity was greatest during the "no one" task and lowest during the "self" task from less than 250 to 1000 ms. Interestingly, the degree of cs activation during referential tasks was further modulated by EA. Low EA corresponded to significantly stronger cs activity overall compared with high EA, and this effect was even more pronounced during the "no one" task. The findings suggest that cognitive processes related to the perception of emotion ownership can influence spontaneous facial muscle activity, but that a greater degree of integration between higher cognitive and lower affective levels of information may interrupt or suppress these behavioural expressions of emotion.
doi:10.3390/psych3020006 doaj:541ce34536e14895abc349b07cb385fe fatcat:7sn6ra7ybrb2lnzoydsbhdruxm