Looking at facial expressions: Dysphoria and facial EMG

Denise M. Sloan, Margaret M. Bradley, Eleni Dimoulas, Peter J. Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Previous research on interpersonal deficits among dysphoric individuals has been equivocal, with some studies finding that dysphoric persons show an increase in negative behavior and other studies finding no group differences. Most studies in this area have employed self-report instruments and behavioral coding systems to examine interpersonal displays. Using a different approach, we examined facial electromyography (EMG) reactivity to pictures of happy and unhappy expressions among dysphoric persons. Dysphoric and non-dysphoric persons viewed happy and unhappy facial expressions while zygomatic EMG and corrugator EMG activity was recorded. Results indicated that both groups showed the appropriate increase in corrugator EMG to unhappy expressions; however, dysphoric persons did not show the expected increase in zygomatic EMG activity to happy expressions while the control participants did show this response. Unexpectedly, the dysphoric group displayed an increase in corrugator EMG activity (e.g. frown response) to the happy facial expressions. These findings indicate that dysphoric persons have impaired interpersonal reactivity that is specific to happy facial displays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-90
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Dysphoria
  • Electromyography
  • Facial expressions


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