Reactions to facial expressions: Effects of social context and speech anxiety on responses to neutral, anger, and joy expressions

  • Vrana S
  • Gross D
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Male and female participants (n=19) high or low in speech fear viewed pictures of faces posed in anger, neutral, and joyful expressions for 8s each. Zygomaticus major and corrugator supercilii EMG, skin conductance, and heart rate were measured during picture viewing, and subjective ratings were made after each picture. Compared to anger expressions, joy expressions were responded to with greater zygomatic EMG, less corrugator EMG, and greater heart rate and skin conductance. Physiological response to neutral expressions was similar to response to anger expressions . Expressions posed by women were responded to physiologically more negatively than expressions posed by men. More fearful participants exhibited more negative and less positive facial expressions, and skin conductance responses suggesting greater attention when viewing negative expressions. Results suggest that reactions to facial expressions are influenced by social context, and are not simple mimicry. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Emotional expression
  • Facial EMG
  • Social context
  • Speech anxiety

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  • Scott VranaVirginia Commonwealth University Department of Psychology

  • Daniel Gross

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