Reading and reacting to faces, the effect of facial mimicry in improving facial emotion recognition in individuals with antisocial behavior and psychopathic traits

Melina Nicole Kyranides*, Maria Petridou, Heema Ajeet Gokani, Sam Hill, Kostas A. Fanti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Individuals with antisocial behavior and psychopathic traits are characterized by deficits in processing facial expressions, which results in poor social adaptation and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships. However, it is not clear how individuals with varying levels of these traits differ in this emotional impairment and if these deficits are due to correctly identifying or reacting appropriately to facial expressions. The aim of the study was to examine how individuals with these traits recognized and responded to affective facial expressions by using FaceReader software (which analyses footage of faces) across different experimental conditions (imitation, suppression, and control). Imitating facial expressions was introduced to examine whether it could direct participants’ attention to the facial cues and improve participants’ performance on the facial task. A total of 643 individuals from the community were pre-screened and a sample (N = 107; M age = 21.08, SD = 1.55), differentiated on levels of antisocial personality disorder (APD) symptoms and psychopathic (PSY) traits, who were selected based on extreme scores (high/low), were invited to participate in the study. Individuals with higher levels of APD symptoms and PSY traits (APD+PSY) expressed more anger than other groups, while those in the APD-only group expressed more sadness, compared to other groups. Overall, participants were compliant in following the instructions to imitate facial expressions. However, only the group with predominantly APD symptoms and the group with combined symptoms (APD+PSY) showed improvement in their accuracy ratings specifically when instructed to imitate facial expressions, compared to when no instructions were provided. The study offers a promising direction for targeting deficits in facial emotion recognition, suggesting that the deficits found in individuals with behavioral problems (with and without psychopathic traits) can be improved by asking them to imitate facial expressions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent psychology
Early online date26 Jan 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • psychopathic traits
  • antisocial behavior
  • facial emotion recognition
  • facial expressions
  • FaceReader

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