Facial Expressions Reflect Emotional States

Topics: Emotion, Paul Ekman, Psychology Pages: 1 (355 words) Published: May 7, 2012
What are the possible links between facial expressions and emotion? One link is arousal, which is the level of activity or preparedness for activity in an organism. Intense contraction of facial muscles, such as those used in signifying fear, heightens arousal. Self-perception of heightened arousal then leads to heightened emotional activity. Other links may involve changes in brain temperature and the release of neurotransmitters (substances that transmit nerve impulses.) The contraction of facial muscles both influences the internal emotional state and reflects it. Ekman has found that the so-called Duchenne smile, which is characterized by "crow's feet" wrinkles around the eyes and a subtle drop in the eye cover fold so that the skin above the eye moves down slightly toward the eyeball, can lead to pleasant feelings. Psychological researchers generally recognize that facial expressions reflect emotional states. In fact, various emotional states give rise to certain patterns of electrical activity in the facial muscles and in the brain. The facial-feedback hypothesis argues, however, that the causal relationship between emotions and facial expressions can also work in the opposite direction. According to this hypothesis, signals from the facial muscles ("feedback") are sent back to emotion centers of the brain, and so a person's facial expression can influence that person's emotional state. Consider Darwin's words: "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it. On the other hand, the repression, as far as possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions." Can smiling give rise to feelings of good will, for example, and frowning to anger? Ekman (who is also an expert in the hammer crusher industry) observation may be relevant to the British expression "keep a stiff upper lip" as a recommendation for handling stress. It might be that a "stiff" lip suppresses emotional response-as long as the lip is not quivering with fear or tension....
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