Professor at Leiden University

CoPAN welcomes new PhD student Friederike Behrens!

Friederike will work on the research project “Emotional expressions beyond facial muscle actions.”

Project description:

Humans are well adapted to quickly recognize and adequately respond to another’s emotions. Different theories propose that mimicry of emotional expressions (facial or otherwise) mechanistically underlies, or at least facilitates, these swift adaptive reactions. When people unconsciously mimic their interaction partner’s expressions of emotion, they come to feel reflections of those companions’ emotions, which in turn influence the observer’s own emotional and empathic behavior. The majority of research has focused on facial actions as expressions of emotion. However, the fact that emotions are not just expressed by facial muscles alone is often still ignored in emotion perception research. The goal of the present project is to revisit this literature and try to understand emotion signals from sources beyond the face muscles that are more automatic and difficult to control such as pupil-dilation, eyeblinks and blushing. These signals are subtle yet visible to observers and because they can hardly be controlled or regulated by the sender, provide important “veridical” information. Recently, more research is emerging about the mimicry of these subtle affective signals such as for example pupil-mimicry. In the current project, we will investigate the relative importance of these subtle signals and the synchronization therewith in comparison to more obvious signals that are exchanged during natural interactions (such as facial expressions) and how the brain integrates information from these different sources.

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