Research using new technology shows that our ability to imitate facial expressions depends on learning that occurs through visual feedback.
Studies of the chameleon effect confirm what salespeople, tricksters, and Lotharios have long known: Imitating another person's postures and expressions is an important social lubricant. But how do we learn to imitate with any accuracy when we can't see our own facial expressions and we can't feel the facial expressions of others?
Richard Cook of City University London, Alan Johnston of University College London, and Cecilia Heyes of the University of Oxford investigate possible mechanisms underlying our ability to imitate in two studies published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
In the first experiment, the researchers videotaped participants as they recited jokes and then asked them to imitate four randomly selected facial expressions from their videos. When they achieved what they perceived to be the target expression, the participants recorded the attempt with the click of a computer mouse.
A computer program evaluated the accuracy of participants' imitation attempts against a map of the target expression. In contrast to previous studies that relied on subjective assessments, this new technology allowed for automated and objective measurement of imitative accuracy.
In one experiment, the researchers found that participants who were able to see their imitation attempts through visual feedback improved over successive attempts. But participants who had to rely solely on proprioception – sensing the relative position of their facial features – got progressively worse.
These results are consistent with the associative sequence-learning model, which holds that our ability to imitate accurately depends on learned associations between what we see (in the mirror or through feedback from others) and what we feel.
Cook and colleagues conclude that contingent visual feedback may be a useful component of rehabilitation and skill-training programs that are designed to improve individuals' ability to imitate facial gestures.
Association for Psychological Science: http://www.psychologicalscience.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Treating patients with the deadly Ebola virus takes doctors, drugs, and a whole lot of chlorine.
For decades, smokers in eastern Europe have used cytisine from laburnum trees to help them quit. Good results in a new trial could make cytisine much more popular
The National Institutes of Health has approved requests for waivers from a moratorium on experiments that aim to make the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome more infectious in mice.
It's all fun and games until someone dislocates a knee, wets himself or has a stroke
Use of synthetic drugs, like bath salts, by young people continues to decline across the nation, according to a study by the University of Michigan.
Researchers are struggling with how to balance the benefits and risks of genetic experiments that can give viruses new talents for causing infections.
For all the medicine they provide at this center, physicians and staff from Doctors Without Borders spend as much time encouraging the patients to eat, drink, and keep fighting. Every patient gets a standard regimen of antibiotics, paracetemol and other pain medications, vitamins, oral rehydration therapy or intravenous fluids. Drugs can control nausea for those who need them; everyone gets antimalarials.
Dengue sickens millions of people each year, and there's no cure. Now scientists have found powerful antibodies that stop the virus. Their discovery offers a road map to develop a simple vaccine.
British doctors make the case for playing music during an operation
Doughnuts? No thank you. An edible powder made from stuff our gut bacteria excrete can stop people gaining weight when taken daily