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The Effect Of Being Watched On Facial EMG And Autonomic Activity In Response To Another Individual’s Facial Expressions

J. Hietanen, A. Kylliäinen, M. Peltola
Published 2019 · Psychology, Medicine

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We tested if facial reactions to another person’s facial expressions depend on the self-relevance of the observed expressions. In the present study (n = 44), we measured facial electromyographic (zygomatic and corrugator) activity and autonomic arousal (skin conductance) responses to a live model’s smiling and neutral faces. In one condition, the participant and the model were able to see each other normally, whereas in the other condition, the participant was led to believe that the model could not see the participant. The results showed that the increment of zygomatic activity in response to smiling faces versus neutral faces was greater when the participants believed they were being watched than it was when the participants believed they were not being watched. However, zygomatic responses to smiles did not differ between the conditions, while the results suggested that the participants’ zygomatic responses to neutral faces seemed to attenuate in the condition of believing they were being watched. Autonomic responses to smiling faces were greater in the belief of being watched than in the belief of not being watched condition. The results suggest that the self-relevance of another individual’s facial expression modulates autonomic arousal responses and to a lesser extent facial EMG responses.
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