EMG study of dynamic and static emotional expression
It is well known, that humans react to emotional facial expressions with
specific, congruent facial muscle activity (facial mimicry), which can be
reliably measured by electromyography (EMG). For example, pictures of angry
faces evoke increased m. corrugator supercilii activity while pictures of happy
faces increase m. zygomaticus major activity and decrease m. corrugator
supercilii activity. It has been concluded that these facial muscular reactions
are spontaneous and automatic, can be evoked unknowingly, are based on
spontaneous facial affect programs, and, also, that relevant aspects of
emotional face-to-face communication can occur on an unconscious level. It is an
interesting question whether dynamic facial expressions of emotion induce more
evident facial mimicry than static ones.
In our study we compared the EMG activity to dynamic (natural) facial
expressions with the static ones (pictures of faces with equivalent static
emotional expressions). The analysis of data showed that:
1) the dynamic presentations of happy expressions induced stronger EMG
activity in the m. zygomatic major and m. orbicularis oculi compared to static
presentations. Moreover happy faces evoked decreased m. corrugator EMG activity,
2) presentations of angry expressions induced the strongest EMG activity
in the m. corrugator supercilii and m. orbicularis oculi however, the greater
activity was observed in response to static than to dynamic stimuli in the m. corrugator
3) two other expressions of emotion:
fear and surprise did not evoke significant changes in EMG activity of
none of three muscles.
We concluded that some natural (dynamic) emotional expression evokes
stronger facial muscle reactions interpretable as facial mimicry more evidently
than static expressions. It seems that the dynamic property facilitates
perceiving and processing facial expressions of emotions.
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Biele C, Rymarczyk K, Majczyński H, Widenska D, Grabowska A.
Facial electromyographic responses to
dynamic and static facial expressions of emotions. Program
No. 739.13. Abstract Viewer/Itinerary Planner. San
Diego, Ca: Society
for Neuroscience (CD/Abstract), 2007