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The role of motor processing in perceiving others' emotions

Research Achievements

The role of motor processing in perceiving others' emotions

Trainee S. Sherrin and his collaborators have been studying the unique insights into social cognition that can be gained by considering the dynamics of brain, body, and environment. One of his studies explored the role of motor processing--how the body performs and represents actions--in perceiving others' emotions. Interestingly, he found that motor performance of a facial expression can actually affect visual perception of other peoples' emotions. For example, prolonged smiling actually decreases subsequent recognition of happiness in others. These results have been both counterintuitive and highly insightful. Furthermore, they are not predicted a priori by traditional theories of social cognition. However, these findings fit squarely within a brain-body interactive perspective--it appears that to understand the actions of others, we utilize our own bodies by simulating the actions via our own motor processes.