Perception of Discrete Emotions in Others: Evidence for Distinct Facial Mimicry Patterns

Tanja Wingenbach, Mark Brosnan, Monique Pfaltz, Peter Peyk, Chris Ashwin

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23 Citations (SciVal)


Covert facial mimicry involves subtle facial muscle activation in observers when they perceive the facial emotional expressions of others. It remains uncertain whether prototypical facial features in emotional expressions are being covertly mimicked and also whether covert facial mimicry involves distinct facial muscle activation patterns across muscles per emotion category, or simply distinguishes positive versus negative valence in observed facial emotions. To test whether covert facial mimicry is emotion-specific, we measured facial electromyography (EMG) from five muscle sites (corrugator supercilii, levator labii, frontalis lateralis, depressor anguli oris, zygomaticus major) whilst participants watched videos of people expressing 9 different basic and complex emotions and a neutral expression. This study builds upon previous research by including a greater number of facial muscle measures and emotional expressions. It is the first study to investigate activation patterns across muscles during facial mimicry and to provide evidence for distinct patterns of facial muscle activation when viewing individual emotion categories, suggesting that facial mimicry is emotion-specific, rather than just valence-based.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4692
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by individual scholarships to T.S.H.W. from the FAZIT-Stiftung and the University of Bath Graduate School as well as funds provided by the Department of Psychology. The authors declare no competing interests, neither financial nor non-financial, in relation to the work described.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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