EMCO - Emotion(s), cognition, comportement

How self-relevance appraisal affects the reading of emotion: a multi-disciplinary approach. – SELFREADEMO

Social communication and self-relevance

This project aims at determining what are the main factors and mechanisms influencing the reading emotions of others; a basic process for social adaptation. In particular, we defend the view that evaluation of self-relevance is critical for taking into account human flexibility in the reading of emotional expressions.

Dimensions which affect self-relevance

Emotions are known to serve several intra- and interpersonal functions. They notably structure and organize ongoing social interactions. However, to initiate adapted behaviours in response to other’s emotional signal, one needs to correctly evaluate its functional significance for the self. The evaluation of self-relevance seems, at first, to vary as a function of at least four main dimensions: the specific emotional expression of the emitter, his/her direction of attention, the individual characteristics of the perceiver and the social context of interaction between the emitter and the perceiver. By manipulating a number of these factors and by using a multi-level methodological approach of developmental psychology and social neuroscience, we propose to clarify the following issues in typical human functioning: (i) How does the reading of emotion vary as a function of self-relevant perceptual features and what underlying mechanisms mediate their bodily (facial muscles activity, autonomic activity) and subjective correlates?; (ii) How does the reading of emotion and the underlying mechanisms vary as a function of individual characteristics (gender, anxiety and empathy levels) and of social context (intimacy and group membership) ?; (iii) When and where does the evaluation of self-relevance impact neural correlates of the reading of emotion?; (iv) When does the evaluation of self-relevance during the reading of emotion emerge across development and does it influence the perceiver’s affective (liking and wanting) and cognitive processing of salient events in the environment (food and non-food cues)?

To achieve these objectives, we have chosen some important examples, which are far from the only ones, of the above-mentioned dimensions. For Self-relevance information, we will concentrate on the direction of gaze and body of the Sender, on gender and the two following personality traits, namely anxiety and empathy, of the perceiver. For the Social context, we will focus on the level of intimacy between the sender and the perceiver, as well as on their group-membership. Two populations will be studied: healthy adults and children/infants. For the Levels of description, the behaviour of the perceiver will be measured using subjective ratings (adults, and children), eye-tracking (adults, children/infants), Facial Action Coding System (FACS - children/infants), the bodily responses using physiological recording of the skin conductance, heart rate and facial electromyography (EMG) in adults; and the brain responses using electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in adults.

We reveal a critical role of self-relevance and individual characteristics (gender) on the appraisal of senders’ emotional facial expressions and gaze direction (as displayed by an avatar) and thus on the interpersonal matching of facial responses (Soussignan et al. 2013) and the second one indicates that facial reactions to self-directed body expressions of anger cannot be interpreted as pure motor mimicry (Grèzes et al. 2013). Moreover, by experimentally reproducing a minimal element of a crowd situation, we showed that emotions displayed by an agent A are transmitted to agent C through agent B, even if the emotional information is barely detectable in agent B’s face (Dezecache et al. 2013 ). These later findings suggest that the human brain is not tuned to react to others’ emotional signals but also to involuntarily send subtle emotional signals that induce emotional states in our conspecifics.

This project could help identify the mechanism (s) underlying self-relevance processing during the reading of emotion and associated neural, somatic, autonomic, and behavioural outcomes. It could also offer new perspectives for assessing which basic mechanisms of the reading of emotion may be impaired in the case of clinical disorders and help to create pertinent tools for recovery.

1. Soussignan, R., Chadwick, M., Leonor, P., Conty, L., Dezecache, G., & Grèzes, J. (2013). Self-relevance appraisal of gaze direction and dynamic facial expressions: Effects on facial electromyographic and autonomic reactions. Emotion, 13, 330-337.
2. Grèzes J., Philip, L., Chadwick, M., Dezecache, G., Soussignan, R., Conty, L. (2013) Self-relevance appraisal influences facial reactions to emotional body expressions. PLoS ONE, 8(2), e55885.
3. Dezecache, G., Conty, L., Philip, L., Soussignan, R., Sperber, D., and Grezes, J., (2013) Evidence for unintentional emotional contagion beyond dyads, PLoS ONE, 8(6), e67371.

This project aims at determining what are the main factors and mechanisms influencing the reading emotions of others; a basic process for social adaptation. In particular, we defend the view that evaluation of self-relevance is critical for taking into account human flexibility in the reading of emotional expressions. The evaluation of self-relevance seems, at first, to vary as a function of at least four main dimensions: the specific emotional expression of the emitter, his/her direction of attention, the individual characteristics of the perceiver and the social context in which the emitter and the perceiver are interacting. By manipulating a number of these factors and by using a multi-level methodological approach of developmental psychology and social neuroscience, we propose to clarify the following issues in typical human functioning: (i) How does the reading of emotion vary as a function of self-relevant perceptual features and what underlying mechanisms mediate their bodily (facial muscles activity, autonomic activity) and subjective correlates?; (ii) How does the reading of emotion and the underlying mechanisms vary as a function of individual characteristics (gender, anxiety and empathy levels) and of social context (intimacy and group membership) ?; (iii) When and where does the evaluation of self-relevance impact neural correlates of the reading of emotion?; (iv) When does the evaluation of self-relevance during the reading of emotion emerge across development and does it influence the perceiver’s affective (liking and wanting) and cognitive processing of salient events in the environment (food and non-food cues)? This project could help identify the mechanism (s) underlying self-relevance processing during the reading of emotion and associated neural, somatic, autonomic, and behavioural outcomes. It could also offer new perspectives for assessing which basic mechanisms of the reading of emotion may be impaired in the case of clinical disorders and help to create pertinent tools for recovery.

Project coordinator

Madame Julie Grezes (Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives) – julie.grezes@ens.fr

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

LNC Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives
CSGA Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l’Alimentation

Help of the ANR 199,885 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2011 - 36 Months

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