Spontaneous Facial Actions Map onto Emotional Experiences in a Non-social Context: Toward a Component-Based Approach


While numerous studies have examined the relationships between facial actions and emotions, they have yet to account for the ways that specific spontaneous facial expressions map onto emotional experiences induced without expressive intent. Moreover, previous studies emphasized that a fine-grained investigation of facial components could establish the coherence of facial actions with actual internal states. Therefore, this study aimed to accumulate evidence for the correspondence between spontaneous facial components and emotional experiences. We reinvestigated data from previous research which secretly recorded spontaneous facial expressions of Japanese participants as they watched film clips designed to evoke four different target emotions: surprise, amusement, disgust, and sadness. The participants rated their emotional experiences via a self-reported questionnaire of 16 emotions. These spontaneous facial expressions were coded using the Facial Action Coding System, the gold standard for classifying visible facial movements. We corroborated each facial action that was present in the emotional experiences by applying stepwise regression models. The results found that spontaneous facial components occurred in ways that cohere to their evolutionary functions based on the rating values of emotional experiences (e.g., the inner brow raiser might be involved in the evaluation of novelty). This study provided new empirical evidence for the correspondence between each spontaneous facial component and first-person internal states of emotion as reported by the expresser.

Frontiers in Psychology.
Shushi Namba
Shushi Namba
Associate Professor

My research interests include distributed facial expression,computational modeling and programmable matter.