Three-year-olds’ rapid facial electromyographic responses to emotional facial expressions and body postures

Geangu, Elena and Quadrelli, Ermanno and Conte, Stefania and Croci, Emanuela and Turati, Chiara (2016) Three-year-olds’ rapid facial electromyographic responses to emotional facial expressions and body postures. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 144. pp. 1-14. ISSN 0022-0965

[thumbnail of JECP_D_15_00298R1_2]
PDF (JECP_D_15_00298R1_2)
JECP_D_15_00298R1_2.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.

Download (3MB)


Rapid Facial Reactions (RFRs) to observed emotional expressions are proposed to be involved in a wide array of socioemotional skills, from empathy to social communication. Two of the most persuasive theoretical accounts propose RFRs to rely either on motor resonance mechanisms or on more complex mechanisms involving affective processes. Previous studies demonstrated that presentation of facial and bodily expressions can generate rapid changes in adult and school age children’s muscle activity. However, up to date, there is little to no evidence to suggest the existence of emotional RFRs from infancy to preschool age. To investigate whether RFRs are driven by motor mimicry or could also be a result of emotional appraisal processes, we recorded facial electromyographic (EMG) activation from the zygomaticus major and frontalis medialis muscles to presentation of static facial and bodily expressions of emotions (i.e, happiness, anger, fear and neutral) in 3-years old children. Results showed no specific EMG activation in response to bodily emotion expressions. However, observing others’ happy faces lead to the increased activation of the zygomaticus major and decreased activation of the frontalis medialis, while observing angry faces elicited the opposite pattern of activation. This study suggests that RFRs are the result of complex mechanisms in which both affective processes and motor resonance may play an important role.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 144, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2015.11.001
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
17 Nov 2015 09:58
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 00:56