2019-03-21Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/20706
From face to face: the contribution of facial mimicry to cognitive and emotional empathy
Despite advances in the conceptualisation of facial mimicry, its role in the processing of social information is a matter of debate. In the present study, we investigated the relationship between mimicry and cognitive and emotional empathy. To assess mimicry, facial electromyography was recorded for 70 participants while they completed the Multifaceted Empathy Test, which presents complex context-embedded emotional expressions. As predicted, inter-individual differences in emotional and cognitive empathy were associated with the level of facial mimicry. For positive emotions, the intensity of the mimicry response scaled with the level of state emotional empathy. Mimicry was stronger for the emotional empathy task compared to the cognitive empathy task. The specific empathy condition could be successfully detected from facial muscle activity at the level of single individuals using machine learning techniques. These results support the view that mimicry occurs depending on the social context as a tool to affiliate and it is involved in cognitive as well as emotional empathy.
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This article was supported by the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.