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Restricting movements of lower face leaves recognition of emotional vocalizations intact but introduces a valence positivity bias.

  • Wołoszyn, Kinga
  • Hohol, Mateusz
  • Kuniecki, Michał
  • Winkielman, Piotr
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2022
eScholarship - University of California
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Blocking facial mimicry can disrupt recognition of emotion stimuli. Many previous studies have focused on facial expressions, and it remains unclear whether this generalises to other types of emotional expressions. Furthermore, by emphasizing categorical recognition judgments, previous studies neglected the role of mimicry in other processing stages, including dimensional (valence and arousal) evaluations. In the study presented herein, we addressed both issues by asking participants to listen to brief non-verbal vocalizations of four emotion categories (anger, disgust, fear, happiness) and neutral sounds under two conditions. One of the conditions included blocking facial mimicry by creating constant tension on the lower face muscles, in the other condition facial muscles remained relaxed. After each stimulus presentation, participants evaluated sounds' category, valence, and arousal. Although the blocking manipulation did not influence emotion recognition, it led to higher valence ratings in a non-category-specific manner, including neutral sounds. Our findings suggest that somatosensory and motor feedback play a role in the evaluation of affect vocalizations, perhaps introducing a directional bias. This distinction between stimulus recognition, stimulus categorization, and stimulus evaluation is important for understanding what cognitive and emotional processing stages involve somatosensory and motor processes.

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