Mimicry not needed for the recognition of emotions

(Medical Xpress)—'Mimicry', the imitation of the facial expression of the other person, does not play a major role in the ability to recognise the emotion of another person. This is apparent from research conducted by Agneta Fischer, professor of Social Psychology at University of Amsterdam. Fischer's article is the first scientific publication to emerge from the Groot Nationaal Onderzoek. 

Fischer investigated the mimicry and recognition of the emotions 'disgust' and 'pride'. Her research revealed that people mimic less than was previously thought. The imitation of emotions mainly occurs among people who know each other and during laughing. Strangers do not mimic the emotion of the other person. Moreover, study subjects who did mimic the facial expression of were found to be no better at recognising the emotion than people who did not mimic. 'It is often assumed that mimicking emotions helps a person to better recognise the emotion of the other. However this research reveals that mimicry hardly plays a role. The facial expression of the other person and the extent to which you feel empathy for him or her are far more important factors for recognising emotions,' says Fischer.

Mimicry in a natural environment

Little research has been done so far into the mimicking of emotions in a 'natural' environment. Fischer based her article on an experiment that she carried out for the Groot Nationaal Onderzoek during the Libelle Zomerweek (women's magazine event) in May 2011. Almost 300 volunteers took part in the experiment. Their were filmed while they sat opposite each other carrying out tasks. A total of more than 15,000 people took part in the study into the recognition of emotions, mostly via online .

The article by Fischer and her colleagues Daniela Becker and Lotte Veenstra entitled "Emotional Mimicry in Social Context: The Case of Disgust and Pride" was published in the online Open Access journal Frontiers in Emotion Science. A new article based on the emotion research is currently under preparation. Fischer is writing this together with her fellow researchers Joost Broekens and Valentijn Visch from Delft University of Technology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Expressionless faces provide clues on how we read emotions

Apr 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- With smiles, grimaces or raised eyebrows, most of us show our feelings on our faces, but people with Moebius syndrome, a rare condition that causes facial paralysis, can't make any facial expressions at all. ...

Understanding emotions without language

Nov 02, 2011

According to a new study by researchers from the MPI for Psycholinguistics and the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, you don't need to have words for emotions to understand them. The results of the study ...

Recommended for you

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.