International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 13 Num. 2 - June 2013


Facial Feedback in Implicit Sequence Learning

Volume 13 Num. 2 - June 2013 - Pages 145-162


Christina Bermeitinger , Anna-Maria Machmer , Julia Schramm , Dennis Mertens , D. Luisa Wilborn , Larissa Bonin , Heidi Femppel , Friederike Koch


There is continuous debate how closely or loosely emotion is linked to behavior and especially to facial expressions. In strong versions of the so-called facial feedback hypothesis, it is assumed that facial activity can intensify, modulate and initiate emotions. The hypothesis has been largely investigated with various emotions, however, surprise was tested only in a few studies. Additionally, it has been discussed frequently how obtrusively manipulations of facial feedback as well as the dependent measures are. Thus, in the present experiment we analyzed whether unobtrusive facial feedback of surprise versus no-surprise can modulate reactions following deviations in an implicit sequence learning task. Participants had to quickly and accurately press keys which corresponded to one of four letters appearing at the screen. After several blocks in which a standard sequence (consisting of a predefined order of 12 letters) was repeated, standard sequences and deviation sequences (i.e. one element differed from the standard sequence) were intermixed. The results confirmed our hypothesis: Participants of the surprise face condition showed longer reaction times to deviation sequences than to standard sequences. In contrast, participants of the no-surprise face condition did not show this difference in reaction times. Results were discussed with respect to implicit learning as well as to theories on emotion and facial feedback taking the special status of surprise into account.

Key words:

facial feedback, emotion, surprise, implicit sequence learning, embodied emotions, embodiment, implicit measures

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