Gender differences in facial imitation and verbally reported emotional contagion from spontaneous to emotionally regulated processing levels

Marianne Sonnby-Borgström, Peter Jönsson, Owe Svensson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous studies on gender differences in facial imitation and verbally reported emotional contagion have investigated emotional responses to pictures of facial expressions at supraliminal exposure times. The aim of the present study was to investigate how gender differences are related to different exposure times, representing information processing levels from subliminal (spontaneous) to supraliminal (emotionally regulated). Further, the study aimed at exploring correlations between verbally reported emotional contagion and facial responses for men and women. Masked pictures of angry, happy and sad facial expressions were presented to 102 participants (51 men) at exposure times from subliminal (23 ms) to clearly supraliminal (2500 ms). Myoelectric activity (EMG) from the corrugator and the zygomaticus was measured and the participants reported their hedonic tone (verbally reported emotional contagion) after stimulus exposures. The results showed an effect of exposure time on gender differences in facial responses as well as in verbally reported emotional contagion. Women amplified imitative responses towards happy vs. angry faces and verbally reported emotional contagion with prolonged exposure times, whereas men did not. No gender differences were detected at the subliminal or borderliminal exposure times, but at the supraliminal exposure gender differences were found in imitation as well as in verbally reported emotional contagion. Women showed correspondence between their facial responses and their verbally reported emotional contagion to a greater extent than men. The results were interpreted in terms of gender differences in emotion regulation, rather than as differences in biologically prepared emotional reactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-122
Number of pages11
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Applied Psychology (50102)

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