The Effect of Pen Holding Conditions on the Humour Rating of Funny Cartoons

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Previous research concerning the facial feedback hypothesis contends that manipulation of facial expression induces emotional arousal. The aim of the experiment was to determine whether holding a pen in the mouth in way that resembles certain facial expression effect humour rating of cartoons rated by participants under one of three conditions. A sample of 60 naïve second year students from Monash University was divided into the three treatment conditions to test the hypothesis. There were two separate hypotheses to be tested. Results were not statistically significant and alternative hypotheses were not supported however, results did indicate a trend supporting the notions of the hypotheses. Implications of this study show that there are trends to support the facial feedback hypothesis however, inconclusively. Future research should be undertaken to effectively ascertain the validity of the facial feedback hypothesis, an extension of the James – Lange theory of emotion. The James – Lange theory suggests that there are three stages related to the experience of an emotion. The first stage is the physiological response to the stimuli mediated by the autonomic nervous system and can include increased heart beat, sweat forming on the palms and similar symptoms. Following the physiological response is the emotional or cognitive aspect of actually realising the emotion which is then followed by the behavioural aspect which denotes what is actually done in response to the stimulus, for example running away. (Buck, 1980, p.811) The facial feedback hypothesis is an extension of the James – Lange theory of emotion and contends that emotions are the result of physiological input rather than physiological reactions being the result of experienced emotions. According to the theory, feedback is taken from muscle activity in the body and is then interpreted by the brain and translated into the feeling of various emotions. For example, rather than a smile being elicited from a feeling of happiness, the facial feedback hypothesis suggests that it is the smile which has caused the feeling of happiness. (Dalton, 2000, p.60) In the past there has been research carried out to test the validity of the facial feedback hypothesis. Laird (1974, cited in Strack, Martin & Stepper. 1988, p. 769) attempted to manipulate facial expression without informing participants of the true nature of certain tasks, thus avoiding their awareness of the fact that they were actually making facial expressions. Moreover, awareness of the relevance of facial expression was eradicated through the use of a diversionary story about needing to measure facial muscular activity. The diversion was substantiated by placing surface electrodes on certain parts of the face such as between the eyebrows, at corners of the mouth and on the jaw. When the experimenter touched these electrodes, participants would contract the relevant muscles, thus eliciting certain facial expressions inadvertently. Participants were then required to rate affective responses to slides and it was found that participants felt happier when their facial features resembles smiles and less happy when their facial features represented frowns. Moreover, Lanzetta, Cartwright-Smith & Kleck (1976, cited in Strack et al, 1988, p. 769) performed various experiments that analysed the association between the non-verbal display of emotional affect and indices of the emotional state. Subjects were influenced to hide or to exaggerate the facial expressions associated with painful shocks. Participants' facial expressions were not altered at all for this experiment, rather were requested to alter the expression that would normally have been elicited. This unnatural modification of facial expression resulted in corresponding subjective responses which ultimately supported the facial feedback hypothesis. (Strack et al, 1988) Much...
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