BIOPSYCHOLOGY OF EMOTIONS: FACIAL FEEDBACK HYPOTHESIS 12
Biopsychologyof Emotions: Facial Feedback Hypothesis
Biopsychologyof Emotions: Facial Feedback Hypothesis
Theimportance of communication cannot be understated as far as thegrowth and development of the human society is concerned. Indeed, alarge proportion of the progress of the human race may be attributeddirectly to communication, as this is the only way that individualscan interact, come up with ideas, actualize them and even use themfor advancement of the human race. More often than not, humancommunication is assumed to primarily take place through the exchangeof words either verbally or in writing. Of particular note is thefact that the communication would have to display or send someemotion for it to be effective. Nevertheless, recent times have seenan increase in the focus on the portrayal of emotions withoutnecessarily speaking or uttering a word. This is in line with theconcept of facial feedback hypothesis.
Facialfeedback hypothesis is based on the notion that facial expressionsmay demonstrate the manner in which individuals feel inside giventhat they are the direct result of an individual’s emotional state.It, however, asks the question on whether the reverse could also betrue where the emotional state of an individual results from his orher facial expression. In essence, the facial feedback hypothesisunderlines the notion that the facial expressions of an individualoffer feedback to the responder that is sufficient and necessary tohave a significant effect on his or her behavior and emotionalexperience. This hypothesis may be broken down into three distinctivehypotheses including the necessity hypothesis, sufficiency hypothesisand monotonicity hypothesis. Necessity hypothesis underlines thenotion that an appropriate facial expression comes off as necessaryfor an individual to subjectively experience emotions, while,according to the sufficiency hypothesis, even when emotionallysalient cues are absent appropriate facial expression would be enoughto have subjective emotional experience. The monotonicity hypothesis,which is considered the causally weakest hypothesis, underlines thenotion that there should exist a positive and monotonic relationshipbetween the facial expression intensity and emotion’s subjectiveexperience. Numerous studies have been undertaken exploring theconcept of facial feedback hypothesis.
Accordingto Dzokoto et al (2015), the feelings of emotional responses were, infact, feelings of the body changes that follow an individual’sperception of an event. In essence, the simulation of a reaction ofthe body to an emotional response should allow for the establishmentof an authentic feeling of that particular emotion. In theirresearch, Dzokoto et al (2014) noted that there was limited researchregarding the potential impact that factors seen to impact theemotional processes have on FFH. This is particularly the case ofBotulinum Toxin (BOTOX). In essence, they noted that two factorsshould be considered as far as FFH is concerned including emotionalintelligence and culture. The researchers argued that the musclesthat are involved in frowning and smiling take place universally, inwhich case the facial feedback effect should be observed in everyhuman being rather than western faces only. Similarly, they arguedthat the degree of the propensity of an individual to attend to hisor her emotions can affect the extent to which the manipulatingfacial expressions may dampen or enhance the reported emotion(Dzokoto et al, 2014). Essentially, it is argued that the emotionalintelligence and especially its sub factor (Attention to Emotion)influences the facial feedback process, which implies that theindividuals that typically attend to their emotions have a reducedlikelihood for being influenced by facial muscles’ contractionmimicking frowns and smiles in instances where they assess stimulisince attention to emotion would involve an assessment of thecognitive elements pertaining to affective experience (Dzokoto et al,2014). Nevertheless, it was determined that as much as the culturaldimensions have a bearing on certain elements of and responses toaffective experience, there is a likelihood that the facial feedbackmechanism functions independent of cultural influences (Dzokoto etal, 2014).
Neal& Chartland (2011), on the other hand, examined the facialfeedback hypothesis by exploring the impact of muscular signals onthe same. In essence, they examined or determined whether theperception of emotional facial expressions by individuals would beless and more accurate in instances where the muscular signals intheir faces are dampened and amplified respectively. In the firstexperiment, the perception of emotion was considerably impaired inpeople whose facial feedback was dampened through the Botoxinjections, in which case a reduction of the facial feedback comeswith broad functional effects on the emotional processing thatencompasses the perception of emotion and emotional reactivity (Neal& Chartland, 2011). In addition, the second experimentdemonstrated that individuals are better facial emotion judges ininstances where their facial skin is resistant to predisposing musclecontractions through restricting gels. While the study primarilyfocuses on Botox, it also reinforces the facial feedback hypothesis,with the authors stating that mimicry promotes emotional sharing andliking, not to mention that it can contribute to relationshipsatisfaction in the long-term (Neal & Chartland, 2011). Giventhat Botox can undermine the outcomes through the reduction ofmimicry, thereby dampening facial feedback signals that can otherwisepromote emotional understanding, the authors see the facial feedbackas a moderating and not a mediating emotional process.
Onthe other hand, Lamer et al (2015), in their article “Thenonverbal environment of self-esteem: Interactive effects offacial-expression and eye-gaze on perceivers` self-evaluations”,underlined the fact that there is always a fluctuation of self-esteemin response to social exclusion and verbal feedback. However, theoccurrence of such ambiguous feedback is insufficiently frequent asto account for the frequent self-esteem fluctuations. In essence,they opined that the other facial behavior offers afrequently-encountered source of feedback that self-esteem mustrespond to (Lamer et al, 2015). Of particular note is the fact thatthe authors are essentially examining the effects of an individual’sfacial expressions on the audiences’ emotions. They note that thein instances where an individual sees another, he or she wouldtypically be seeing the facial expressions, eye-gaze and body posturealongside other nonverbal cues. In essence, the nonverbal behavior’shigh frequency would be consequential given that the perceivers’attitudes, emotions and behavior would effortlessly respond to theother person’s nonverbal cues (Lamer et al, 2015). Of particularnote is the fact that the self-esteem of an individual would only beaffected in instances where there is a direct gaze, in which caseself-esteem would only be influenced by facial emotions that aredirected to self. Of course, the major question would be whether thesame effects would be felt by the individual that it giving thesenon-verbal cues. As Andreasson (2010) notes, the human faceincorporates fascinating capacity for expressing emotions. Thefeedback from facial muscles may be playing a part in empatheticrelations. In an effort to examine emotional empathy concept,Andreasson relates it to two elements pertaining to the facialmuscles. In this case, the question was whether there are variationsin the degree of spontaneous mimicking of emotional facialexpressions between individuals with low and high emotional empathy(Andreasson, 2010). This led to the second question where the authorsought to determine whether there existed any variation between thetwo groups of individuals with regard to their sensitivity tofeedback emanating from their own facial muscles. It was noted thatthere were indeed variations in the degree of spontaneous mimickingof emotional facial expressions between individuals with low and highemotional empathy. Indeed, individuals that have high emotionalempathy tend to spontaneously mimic pictures pertaining to theiremotional facial expressions, something that does not take place inthe case of individuals that have low emotional empathy. In addition,individuals that have low emotional empathy tend to react in a mannercontrary to facial feedback hypothesis in instances where theirfacial muscles were manipulated in happy vs. sulky facial expression,while there was no significant reaction for people that have highemotional empathy (Andreasson, 2010). Essentially, the results ofthe studies carried out indicated that mimicking and feedback derivedfrom facial muscles play a part in emotional contagion, therebyinfluencing emotional empathic reactions (Andreasson, 2010). In thiscase, variation in emotional empathy could partly be accounted for byvarying degrees of mimicking reactions, as well as varying emotionaleffects pertaining to feedback from the facial muscles.
Thetesting of Facial Feedback Hypothesis necessitates that studiesinclude some way of manipulating the facial expressions and then theresearchers examine the manner in which the individual perceivescertain aspects of their lives. Mori and Mori (2013), undertook astudy in which they aimed at determining whether facial expressionspertaining to having cheeks lifted would also come with goodfeelings. In this case, the researchers measured the implicitemotional variations between two conditions of facial feedbackthrough the utilization of a modified Affect misattributionProcedure. In this case, the facial expressions of an individualwould be changed through paired adhesive bandages with rubber bandsworn by the participants. The design of the paired adhesive bandagesallowed them to raise or lower the cheeks, with the rated neuraltargets being preceded by certain forms of prime photos incorporatedin a 3-point scale of bad, neutral and good. Mori and Mori (2013)noted that the participants that had their cheeks raised would ratethe targets in a statistically more favorable manner compared to theone’s whose cheeks had been lowered. As much as the results of thisstudy may have confirmed the facial feedback hypothesis, criticswould also opine that the results may have emanated from the rubberbands and the variations in the locations where they were placed(Mori &Mori, 2013). Indeed, the attachment of the chain of rubberbands around the participants’ head could have generated sensationsthat are different from those that are in the lower part of the facesince the pressure that the rubber bands produced would inducevarying skin sensations around the jaw and head (Mori &Mori,2013). Whether or not this was the case is subject to debate.However, it should be noted that earlier studies undertaken byDimberg and Soderkvist (2011) produced similar results. Dimberg andSoderkvist (2011) acknowledged that facial muscles express emotionsand also have the capacity to regulate or modulate the subjectiveexperiences pertaining to emotions, as well as initiate emotions. Intheir study, they underlined the fact that facial feedback neverregulated or modulated the stimuli that invoked negative and positiveemotions in a different manner (Dimberg & Soderkvist, 2011). Onthe same note, they determined that an effect of feedback remainedand could even be detected even long after the critical manipulation.Of particular note is the fact that their study demonstrated thatparticipants who were in the smiling muscle movement condition wouldrate neutral stimuli significantly higher in pleasantness compared tothe frowning muscle movement condition (Dimberg & Soderkvist,2011).
Similarly,research was undertaken to determine the causal relationships thatexist between the facial actions of an individuals and the emotionaljudgment. Hyniewska & Sato (2015) explored this issue throughmeasuring the emotional judgments of individuals in terms of arousaldimensions and valence while also undertaking comparisons between thedynamic and static presentations pertaining to facial expressions.The participants were required to distinguish between the faces’gender through the activation of the corrugators supercilii muscle(lowering the brow), as well as the zygomaticus major muscle (raisingthe cheek) Hyniewska & Sato (2015). On the same note, they wererequired to assess the stimuli’s internal states through the use ofthe affect grid while still maintaining the facial action until theywere through with responding Hyniewska & Sato (2015). It wasnoted that the attributed valence scores were increased by the cheekraising condition compared to the brow lowering condition, an effectthat was noted in both dynamic and static facial expressions.
Withall these studies underlining the link between facial expression andthe emotions that an individual displays in the long-term and theshort-term, it goes without saying that there would, essentially be alinkage between the movements of the facial muscles and the emotionsthat an individual experiences. Indeed, Hennenlotter et al (2015)noted that afferent feedback from the skin and muscles influencesindividual emotions in the control of the facial expressions. In aneffort to explain the physiological interaction between theseelements, Hennenlotter et al (2015) stated that recent imaging havedemonstrated that the imitation of facial expression is related toactivation of limbic regions like the amygdala. Through theapplication of botulinum toxin (BTX)-induced denervation of the frownmuscles, the authors managed to demonstrate that the facial feedbackdoes modulate or regulate the neural activity in the centralcircuitries pertaining to emotion in the course of intentional facialexpressions’ imitation (Hennenlotter et al, 2015).
Ofcourse, the results of these studies have a bearing on healthsciences. Indeed, scholars have examined the applicability of thesestudies to real life situations where the facial muscles can beartificially manipulated so as to eliminate the devastating effectsof depression. In “Agitationpredicts response of depression to botulinum toxin treatment in arandomized controlled trial”,Wollmer et al, (2014) noted that Botox treatment on the face may havean impact on the mood and affect of the individual with participantsreporting an enhancement of the emotional well-being, as well as areduction of the levels of negative emotions like sadness and fearafter being injected with Botox at the glabellar region (Wollmer etal, 2014). However, it should be noted that in the application of theBotox, the negative emotions relating to depression would bereinforced and maintained through proprioceptive afferences fromfacial muscles expressing the emotions (Wollmer et al, 2014). In thiscase, the feedback loop interruption by paralyzing the respectivemuscles could attain the mood lifting effect pertaining to thebotulinum toxin, in which case there is a high likelihood that theintervention would be especially effective in instances where thedepressed patients have high baseline activities pertaining to thetargeted muscles (Wollmer et al, 2014). Such activity could beclinically manifested through facial features such as frown lines orthe Veraguth Folds and “omega melancholicum”, which are relatedto agitation or rather the generalized heightening of the dynamicpsychomotor activity in depression (Wollmer et al, 2014).
Ofcourse, each of the studies pertaining to the facial feedbackhypothesis, its efficacy and utility have been done with immenselevels of comprehensiveness. It should be noted that the distinctiveways in which the studies were done required the making of certainassumptions, in which case there would be selective rather thangeneralized application of the results of the study. This does notaffect the studies’ validity in the short-term and the long-termrather it affects their capacity to be generalized across differentpopulations. Nevertheless, the studies underline the fact that theregulation of emotion can be deliberate and operate on implicit ornon-conscious levels. As Koole et al (2014) notes, implicit processescan support the regulation of emotion in three ways. First, they canguide individuals in the selection of the suitable strategies forregulating emotion through the activation of habitual strategies andthe customization of strategies to the situational affordances (Kooleet al, 2014). In addition, they could allow individuals to makedecisions regarding whether or not they should take part in emotionregulation via implicit activation of the regulation goals ofemotions, as well as the implicit monitoring and evaluation of thecompatibility of the emotional responses with the goals (Koole et al,2014). On the same note, the implicit processes that are recruited bythe implementation intentions and habits can facilitate the enactmentof the strategies for regulating emotions (Koole et al, 2014). Thisunderlines the crucial nature of implicit processes in the control ofemotions.
Whilethere exists no accurate and universal way for testing the facialfeedback hypothesis, there are varied features that a proper studyshould incorporate. First, there should be a way of ensuring that thefacial expressions vary from one point to another. This could beachieved artificially through the injection of Botox within thefacial muscles of the participants. However, this should becomplemented by a control group that has proper other ways of varyingthe expressions such as the use of rubber bands to cause a frown or asmile in the participants. This would allow for the comparison of theresults of the study between the two groups so as to safeguard orensure that the methods used do not have a significant effect on theresponses that the participants give within a [particular context.The participants would be randomly selected, but it would be good tohave individuals that are depressed and those that are not so as tocompare the results of the two categories of people. Once theparticipants have been selected, it is imperative that they bedivided into two groups, again randomly so as to eliminate thepossibility of bias. They would then be required to answer questionson certain images and rate them either as bad or favorable.
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