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Empathy, emotional contagion and rapid facial reactions to angry and happy facial expressions
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2012 (English)In: PsyCh Journal, ISSN 2046-0252, Vol. 1, no 2, 118-127 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim was to explore whether emotional empathy is related to the capacity to react with rapid facial reactions to facial expressions of emotion, and if emotional empathy is related to the ability to experience a similar emotion as expressed by another person. People high or low in emotional empathy were exposed to pictures of happy and angry faces while their facial electromyography from the zygomaticus major and corrugator supercilii muscle regions was detected. High empathy participants rapidly reacted with larger zygomatic muscle activity to happy as compared with angry faces as early as after 500 ms after stimulus onset, and with larger corrugator muscle activity to angry than to happy faces after 500 ms. Accordingly, this group also reacted with a corresponding experience of emotion. The low empathy participants, in contrast, did not differentiate between the happy and angry stimuli with either facial muscles or in their self experience of emotion. The findings are related to the facial feedback hypothesis and the results are interpreted as support for the hypothesis that rapid and automatically evoked facial mimicry may be one important mechanism for emotional and empathic contagion to occur.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 1, no 2, 118-127 p.
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-183332DOI: 10.1002/pchj.4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-183332DiVA: diva2:562416
Available from: 2012-10-24 Created: 2012-10-24 Last updated: 2013-07-24Bibliographically approved

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Dimberg, Ulf
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