Amplifying and Dampening Facial Feedback Modulates Emotion Perception Accuracy
How do we recognize the emotions other people are feeling? One source of information may be facial feedback signals generated when we automatically mimic the expressions displayed on others’ faces. Supporting this “embodied emotion perception,” dampening (Experiment 1) and amplifying (Experiment 2) facial feedback signals, respectively, impaired and improved people’s ability to read others’ facial emotions. In Experiment 1, emotion perception was significantly impaired in people who had received a cosmetic procedure that reduces muscular feedback from the face (Botox) compared to a procedure that does not reduce feedback (a dermal filler). Experiment 2 capitalized on the fact that feedback signals are enhanced when muscle contractions meet resistance. Accordingly, when the skin was made resistant to underlying muscle contractions via a restricting gel, emotion perception improved, and did so only for emotion judgments that theoretically could benefit from facial feedback.