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Emotional Mimicry As Social Regulation

U. Hess, A. Fischer
Published 2013 · Psychology, Medicine

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Emotional mimicry is the imitation of the emotional expressions of others. According to the classic view on emotional mimicry (the Matched Motor Hypothesis), people mimic the specific facial movements that comprise a discrete emotional expression. However, little evidence exists for the mimicry of discrete emotions; rather, the extant evidence supports only valence-based mimicry. We propose an alternative Emotion Mimicry in Context view according to which emotional mimicry is not based on mere perception but rather on the interpretation of signals as emotional intentions in a specific context. We present evidence for the idea that people mimic contextualized emotions rather than simply expressive muscle movements. Our model postulates that (implicit or explicit) contextual information is needed for emotional mimicry to take place. It takes into account the relationship between observer and expresser, and suggests that emotional mimicry depends on this relationship and functions as a social regulator.
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