Voluntary Mimicry, Mood and Empathy




Willis, Matthew

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Previous research has documented the social, physiological and cognitive properties of the Duchenne smile. No previous studies have been conducted to assess accuracy during repeated, prompted imitation of the Duchenne smile. The present study investigated the effects of such repeated, prompted imitation of both social and Duchenne smiles on mood and responses to a verbal prompt to smile, as well as accuracy of imitation over several time points. Relationships with self-reported empathy were also examined. The 50, predominately (84%) female, undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to two groups. Both groups of participants were asked to imitate a total of ten facial expressions including expressions of sadness and anger. One group was asked to imitate six consecutive social smiles and the other was asked to imitate six consecutive Duchenne smiles. Friedman ANOVAs revealed stable imitative inaccuracies for both groups of participants over the course of repeated imitation attempts. Both the social smile and Duchenne smile groups reported significantly increased mood following repeated imitation. No differences between groups were found in responses to verbal prompts to smile. Empathy was found to be unrelated to accuracy of voluntary mimicry (the type of imitation investigated in this study). Results suggest that training may be necessary for some individuals to learn to accurately reciprocate Duchenne smiles. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.



Duchenne smile, Mood, Imitation, Empathy