Successful social functioning requires quick and accurate processing of emotion and generation of appropriate reactions. In typical individuals, these skills are supported by embodied processing, recruiting central and peripheral mechanisms. However, emotional processing is atypical in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Individuals with ASD show deficits in recognition of briefly presented emotional expressions. They tend to recognize expressions using rule-based, rather than template, strategies. Individuals with ASD also do not spontaneously and quickly mimic emotional expressions, unless the task encourages (...) engagement. When processing emotional scenes, ASD individuals show atypical basic motivational responses, despite intact ability to verbally determine stimulus valence. We discuss how these findings highlight the contribution of both embodied and disembodied mechanisms to typical and atypical emotional functioning. (shrink)
This article focuses on Bob Zajonc’s views on unconscious emotion, especially in the context of the debates about the independence of affect and cognition. Historically, Bob was always interested in the “mere”—basic, fundamental processes. His empirical demonstrations of precognitive and preconscious emotional processes, combined with his elegant expositions of them, sharply contrasted with cold and complex cognitive models. Interestingly, Bob tended to believe that whereas the causes of emotion can be unconscious, the emotional state itself tends to be conscious. However, (...) he reconsidered this assumption and in his later work showed that subjects in affective priming experiments do not experience conscious affect, but instead act on basic preferences. Today, Bob’s insights continue to inspire research on “unconscious emotion.”. (shrink)
Facial electromyography (EMG) was used to investigate patterns of facial mimicry in response to partial facial expressions in two contexts that differ in how naturalistic and socially significant the faces are. Experiment 1 presented participants with either the upper- or lower-half of facial expressions and used a forced-choice emotion categorisation task. This task emphasises cognition at the expense of ecological and social validity. Experiment 2 presented whole heads and expressions were occluded by clothing. Additionally, the emotion recognition task is more (...) open-ended. This context has greater social validity. We found mimicry in both experiments, however mimicry differed in terms of which emotions were mimicked and the extent to which the mimicry involved muscle sites that were not observed. In the more cognitive context, there was relatively more motor matching (i.e. mimicking only what was seen). In the more socially valid context, participants were less likely to mimic only what they saw – and instead mimicked what they knew. Additionally, participants mimicked anger in the cognitive context but not the social context. These findings suggest that mimicry involves multiple mechanisms and that the more social the context, the more likely it is to reflect a mechanism of social regulation. (shrink)
ABSTRACTFacial features that resemble emotional expressions influence key social evaluations, including trust. Here, we present four experiments testing how the impact of such expressive features is qualified by their processing difficulty. We show that faces with mixed expressive features are relatively devalued, and faces with pure expressive features are relatively valued. This is especially true when participants first engage in a categorisation task that makes processing of mixed expressions difficult and pure expressions easy. Critically, we also demonstrate that the impact (...) of categorisation fluency depends on the specific nature of the expressive features. When faces vary on valence, trust judgments increase with their positivity, but also depend on fluency. When faces vary on social motivation, trust judgments increase with their approachability, but remain impervious to disfluency. This suggests that people intelligently use fluency to make judgments on val... (shrink)
We present a dynamical model of interaction between recognition memory and affect, focusing on the phenomenon of “warm glow of familiarity.” In our model, both familiarity and affect reflect quick monitoring of coherence in an attractor neural network. This model parsimoniously explains a variety of empirical phenomena, including mere-exposure and beauty-in-averages effects, and the speed of familiarity and affect judgments.
My commentary applauds the authors' cognitive framework for capturing the inferential complexity and flexibility of emotion processing. The framework offers generative powers, as demonstrated by new studies, and an insightful perspective on classic studies. However, at the core, the framework is still symbolic and cold—reflecting its origins in amodal views of the mind. This leads to two troubles. First, the framework cannot incorporate evidence for embodied, modal processing of emotion. Second, the framework overemphasizes conceptual and conscious processing, leading to dismissal (...) of unconscious emotion. I question whether simply updating a symbolic cognitive framework is sufficient to capture the recent empirical and theoretical developments in emotion research. It might be time for a new modal and embodied theory of emotion. (shrink)
Processing of facial expressions goes beyond simple pattern recognition. To elucidate this problem, Niedenthal et al. offer a model that identifies multiple embodied and disembodied routes for expression processing, and spell out conditions triggering use of different routes. I elaborate on this model by discussing recent research on emotional recognition in individuals with autism, who can use multiple routes of emotion processing, and consequently can show atypical and typical patterns of embodied simulation and mimicry.
People can support abstract reasoning by using mental models with spatial simulations. Such models are employed when people represent elements in terms of ordered dimensions (e.g. who is oldest, Tom, Dick, or Harry). We test and find that the process of forming and using such mental models can influence the liking of its elements (e.g. Tom, Dick, or Harry). The presumed internal structure of such models (linear-transitive array of elements), generates variations in processing ease (fluency) when using the model in (...) working memory (see the Symbolic Distance Effect, SDE). Specifically, processing of pairs where elements have larger distances along the order should be easier compared to pairs with smaller distances. Elements from easier pairs should be liked more than elements from difficult pairs (fluency being hedonically positive). Experiment 1 shows that unfamiliar ideographs are liked more when at wider distances and therefore easier to process. Experiment 2 replicates this effect with non-words. Experiment 3 rules out a non-spatial explanation of the effect while Experiments 4 offers a high-powered replication. Experiment 5 shows that the spatial effect spontaneously emerges after learning, even without a task that explicitly focuses on fluency. Experiment 6 employed a shorter array, but yielded no significant results. (shrink)
Much can be gained by specifying the operation of the emulation process. A brief review of studies from diverse domains, including complex motor-skill representation, emotion perception, and face memory, highlights that emulation theory offers precise explanations of results and novel predictions. However, the neural instantiation of the emulation process requires development to move the theory from armchair to laboratory.
Loneliness—perceived social isolation—is defined as a discrepancy between existing social relationships and desired quality of relationships. Whereas most research has focused on existing relationships, we consider the standards against which people compare them. Participants who made downward social or temporal comparisons that depicted their contact with others as better reported less loneliness than participants who made upward comparisons that depicted their contact with others as worse. Extending these causal results, in a survey of British adults, upward social comparisons predicted current (...) loneliness, even when controlling for loneliness at a previous point in time. Finally, content analyses of interviews with American adults who lived alone showed that social and temporal comparisons about contact with others were both prevalent and linked to expressed loneliness. These findings contribute to understanding the social cognition of loneliness, extend the effects of comparisons about social connection to the important public health problem of loneliness, and provide a novel tool for acutely manipulating loneliness. (shrink)