Social Cognition, Affect and Motivation Week 2

The second lecture of this course emphasises the role the bodily experience and particularly facial expression plays in our appraisal of emotions.

The concept of mirror neurons is introduced which leads us to react unconsciously to the facial expression of the person next to us. Tests have shown that we like people more who mirror us, but dislike if we notice we are mirrored. Mirroring can lead to understanding. This process even works on a sub-conscious level. Facial muscles are also activated when emotional words are read. There is a relation between power and how we respond to other people, e.g. smile at them.

Experiments in which facial muscles have been activated showed that we respond both to positive and negative stimuli differently if our muscles are engaged. These tests have been criticised for not adequately ensuring that other stimuli are left out.

Three hypothesis evolved about the relationship between muscle stimulants and emotional perception. The “necessity” hypothesis states that there can be no emotional experience without muscular feedback. The “sufficiency” hypothesis states that facial activity can provoke emotional state. The “modulation” theory states that facial expression can modulate emotional experience after external stimuli.

The relationship between facial expression and emotions has lead to experiments with botox, but these are highly controversial, especially in regards to singling out cause and effect.

Not only facial muscles, but the whole body can influence how emotions are perceived. Experiments have shown changes in regards to feeling powerful when people take on poses for a longer period of time.

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