Abstract

Facial expressions provide information about an individual's intentions and emotions and are thus an important medium for nonverbal communication. Theories of embodied cognition assume that facial mimicry and resulting facial feedback plays an important role in the perception of facial emotional expressions. Although behavioral and electrophysiological studies have confirmed the influence of facial feedback on the perception of facial emotional expressions, the influence of facial feedback on the automatic processing of such stimuli is largely unexplored. The automatic processing of unattended facial expressions can be investigated by visual expression-related MMN. The expression-related MMN reflects a differential ERP of automatic detection of emotional changes elicited by rarely presented facial expressions (deviants) among frequently presented facial expressions (standards). In this study, we investigated the impact of facial feedback on the automatic processing of facial expressions. For this purpose, participants (n = 19) performed a centrally presented visual detection task while neutral (standard), happy, and sad faces (deviants) were presented peripherally. During the task, facial feedback was manipulated by different pen holding conditions (holding the pen with teeth, lips, or nondominant hand). Our results indicate that automatic processing of facial expressions is influenced and thus dependent on the own facial feedback.

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