The Origin of Emotion: Determining Conscious Processing of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis


  • Nick Zabara


psychology, facial feedback hypothesis, cognition, cognitive processing, consciousness, emotion, treatment, depression


The facial feedback hypothesis states that sensory feedback from the contractions of facial muscles can influence mood. Researchers have demonstrated this effect, but have not been able to determine whether it occurs consciously or unconsciously (Dimberg & Söderkvist, 2011; Mori & Mori, 2010; Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988). The proposed study will determine if the facial feedback effect can occur through unconscious processing alone, allowing psychologists to better understand how the mind-body connection affects human emotion. The facial feedback effect will be viewed as changes in mood, which will be measured on scales using results from self-report questionnaires and emotional ratings of neutral photographs (Crawford & Henry, 2004; Libkuman, Otani, Kern, Viger, & Novak, 2007). Unconscious processing will be evaluated by using topical anesthetic to prevent a group of participants from feeling which of their facial muscles are being stimulated. Previous research has found little difference between individuals enacting the facial feedback effect using entirely conscious and semi-conscious techniques (Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988; Mori & Mori, 2009). Therefore, this study predicts that facial feedback effects are determined by unconscious processing and that strong facial feedback effects should be evident even when participants are not aware of the facial stimulation.