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Facial reactions to violent and comedy films: Association with callous–unemotional traits and impulsive aggression

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-224
Number of pages16
JournalCognition and Emotion
Volume31
Issue number2
Early online date15 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2017

Abstract

The current study adds to prior research by investigating specific (happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust, anger and fear) and general (corrugator and zygomatic muscle activity) facial reactions to violent and comedy films among individuals with varying levels of callous?unemotional (CU) traits and impulsive aggression (IA). Participants at differential risk of CU traits and IA were selected from a sample of 1225 young adults. In Experiment 1, participants (N?=?82) facial expressions were recorded while they watched violent and comedy films. Video footage of participants' facial expressions was analysed using FaceReader, a facial coding software that classifies facial reactions. Findings suggested that individuals with elevated CU traits showed reduced facial reactions of sadness and disgust to violent films, indicating low empathic concern in response to victims' distress. In contrast, impulsive aggressors produced specifically more angry facial expressions when viewing violent and comedy films. In Experiment 2 (N?=?86), facial reactions were measured by monitoring facial electromyography activity. FaceReader findings were verified by the reduced facial electromyography at the corrugator, but not the zygomatic, muscle in response to violent films shown by individuals high in CU traits. Additional analysis suggested that sympathy to victims explained the association between CU traits and reduced facial reactions to violent films.

    Research areas

  • facial expressions, callous–unemotional traits, impulsive aggression, FaceReader, electromyography

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