Emotional pictures elicit responses across experiential, behavioral and physiological systems. The magnitude of these responses can be modulated by altering one's interpretation of emotional stimuli. Previous studies have indicated that appraisal frames affect subsequent interpretations of upcoming stimuli so as to alter self-reported emotions, ERP activity and autonomic responses. No studies to date have examined the effect of appraisal frames on expressive behaviors as measured by facial EMG. This study aims to test the hypothesis that appraisal frames can alter both emotional experience and facial expression and attempts to examine their effect on the temporal unfolding of facial expressions. Participants (N= 20) were exposed to 125 pairs of appraisal frames (neutral or negative/positive) followed by neutral, unpleasant, or pleasant pictures reflecting five conditions: unpleasant-negative, unpleasant-neutral, pleasant-positive, pleasant-neutral and neutral-neutral. Results indicate that the unpleasant-negative compared to the unpleasant-neutral condition led to greater self-reported unpleasantness and arousal, as well as greater corrugator activity, and the pleasant-positive compared to the pleasant-neutral condition led to greater self-reported pleasantness and zygomaticus activity; modulation of facial responses became evident 0.5–1.0 s after stimulus onset. These results suggest that appraisal frames effectively alter both emotional experience and facial expressions.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2012.04.010, hdl.handle.net/1765/120829
International Journal of Psychophysiology
Department of Psychology

Wu, L, Winkler, M, Andreatta, M., Hajcak, G., & Pauli, P. (2012). Appraisal Frames of Pleasant and Unpleasant pictures alter Emotional Responses as reflected in Self-report and Facial Electromyographic Activity. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 85, 224–229. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2012.04.010