ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 6, Issue 3, 253-263, 2015
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The Effect of Facial Expressions on the Evaluation of Ambiguous Statements

Authors
  Frances Meeten - School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  Peter Ivak - School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  Suzanne Dash - School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  Sam Knowles - School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  Theodora Duka - School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  Ryan Scott - School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  Jakob Kaiser - School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  Graham Davey - Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Volume 6, Issue 3, 2015, Pages 253-263
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5127/jep.039613

Abstract
The present experiment adapted the “Voluntary Facial Action” (VFA) technique (Dimberg & Söderkvist, 2011) to study the effect of facial expressions on the interpretation of ambiguity. This required participants to react with either the zygomatic major muscles (smile) or the corrugator supercilii muscles (frown) when exposed to different stimuli, some of which were ambiguous statements. While contracting the required facial muscles, participants also rated each stimulus on a negative-positive scale. Results indicated that participants contracting smiling muscles during ambiguous statements rated those statements as significantly more positive than participants contracting frowningrelevant muscles. This effect remained significant in participants who were unaware of the purpose of the experiment, and unaware that the experiment was related to mood. Previous studies have demonstrated that facial expressions can reflect the valency of a bias in responding to ambiguous stimuli (e.g. Neta, Norris, & Whalen, 2009), but the present study goes further by suggesting that facial expressions can actively influence the interpretation of stimuli as complex as verbal statements. Some of the implications for the way in which facial expressions may influence cognitive processes relevant to psychopathology are discussed.

Table of Contents
Introduction
Method
Participants
Materials
Procedure
Design & Analysis
Results
Discussion
Acknowledgements
References

Correspondence to
Frances Meeten, D.Phil., Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.

Keywords
Facial Expression; Mood; Ambiguity evaluation

Dates
Received 29 Oct 2013; Revised 2 Feb 2015; Accepted 10 Feb 2015; In Press 2 Oct 2015







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