Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Initial Emotional Output Cannot Be Modified: The Premier Expression

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Initial Emotional Output Cannot Be Modified: The Premier Expression

Article excerpt

Decades of research have provided empirical evidence that emotional responses are unique, specific to the aroused emotion, and have low visibility (e.g., Davidson, Ekman, Saron, Senulis, & Friesen, 1990; Levenson, Ekman, & Friesen, 1990; Scherer & Wallbott, 1994). However, facial expression is a much more visible index of emotions than internal measures (i.e., blood pressure); indeed, the face has attracted the most attention as a behavioral index of emotion. Several researchers have also been interested in slight facial reactions, particularly unconscious facial responses to the facial expressions of others (Dimberg, 1982; 2000; Dimberg & Thunberg, 1998). These responses occur roughly 300ms after stimulus onset. Although Dimberg (1990) did report differential facial responses via electromyography (EMG) in response to emotional images, his study neglected a central feature of investigations of emotion responses--namely, how they change across time (Mauss, Levenson, McCater, Wilhelm, & Gross, 2005). While the use of posed facial expressions to reveal emotions (e.g. Ekman & Friesen, 1986; Matsumoto et. al., 2000; Rosenberg & Ekman, 1995) has been popular in the past, spontaneous facial actions might be more useful for understanding the mechanism underlying emotional responses and as well as determining which emotion is actually felt. In other words, the facial expressions that appear just after affective stimulus onset--in particular the very first facial response--could most accurately reflect the genuine felt emotion.

Because faces are the "primary site of affects" (Tomkins & McCarter, 1964, p.121), they might be considered as a broader source of emotions that are superior to any visceral or outer skeletal responses, particularly in terms of speed, precision, and complexity. The very first facial reaction--namely, the primary affective output--has been termed the "premier expression" in the context of inducing surprise (Zhu & Suzuki, 2016). Specifically, Zhu and Suzuki (2016) found particular facial activity occurring about 150ms after surprise stimulus onset that was not affected by conscious suppression, whereas activity subsequent to that (from about 300 ms to 500 ms following onset, depending on the muscle region) was. Based on the assumption that the face is the location for the initial expression of emotion, the premier expression was interpreted as a facial component that genuinely reflected a felt emotion and does not appear to be influenced by either conscious manipulation or social context (Zhu & Suzuki, 2016).

The premier expression is based on the above-stated notion that the face is a superior means for measuring emotions, and researchers interested in exploring it must naturally consider the affective expressive process from a moment-to-moment perspective. Despite chronological changes is the most essential character of the short-lived affective responses (e.g., Kettunen, Ravaja, & Keltikangas-Jarvinen, 2000), most prior studies examined affective expression from a gross perspective, which may have led to missing key initial facial components that require a high temporal resolution approach to discover. Given that the premier expression (Zhu & Suzuki, 2016) is defined as a rapidly occurring primary facial action in response to felt emotions, and is therefore automatic and reflexive, it cannot easily be suppressed (although it is expected to vary positively with the intensity of emotion and arousal level). However, the expressions following the premier expression are considered slower to occur and can be easily concealed or modified via conscious manipulation (Zhu & Suzuki, 2016).

So far, the premier expression has only been observed in response to surprise stimuli. Thus, it would be important to determine whether it occurs for other emotions in order to confirm its generality and features as the first output of emotion. This was the purpose of the present study. …

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