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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 supercilii,

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.

Jankowiak-Siuda K., Rymarczyk K., Grabowska A. How we empathize with others: A neurobiological perspective. Medical Science Monitor, 2011, 17(1): RA18-28.
Rymarczyk K., Biele C, Grabowska A., Majczyński H. EMG activity in response to static and dynamic facial expressions. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 2011, 79: 330333.
Rymarczyk K, Biele C, Majczyński H. Rola dynamiki w percepcji ekspresji emocjonalnych. Studia Psychologiczne, 2009, 47 (3): 53-64.

Rymarczyk K., Biele C., Majczyński H., Gut M., Jankowiak-Siuda K., Grabowska A. EMG activity in response to dynamic and static facial expression. 9th Internationall Congress of the Polish Neuroscience Society, Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalist., 2009, 69 (3) , str. 372.

Rymarczyk K., Jankowiak-Siuda K., Majczyński H., Biele C., Grabowska A. Dynamic facial expressions- EMG study. 41st European Brain and Behaviour Society Meeting, 2009, doi: 10.3389/conf.neuro.08.2009.09.285 

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



Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology (c) 2015