The authors wish to thank V. Klucharev, M. Meinhold, and B. Schalitz for help creating the virtual agents. Thanks are also due to U. Buhss, M. Fink, and T. Goschke for providing assistance with parts of the equipment and for support during data collection and analysis. J. R. Helmert, F. Mulvey, and M. Heubner made valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This research was supported by two grants from the European NEST-Pathfinder Projects PERCEPT (No. 043261) and MINET (No.043297).
Virtual friend or threat? The effects of facial expression and gaze interaction on psychophysiological responses and emotional experience
Article first published online: 12 MAY 2009
Copyright © 2009 Society for Psychophysiological Research
Volume 46, Issue 5, pages 922–931, September 2009
How to Cite
Schrammel, F., Pannasch, S., Graupner, S.-T., Mojzisch, A. and Velichkovsky, B. M. (2009), Virtual friend or threat? The effects of facial expression and gaze interaction on psychophysiological responses and emotional experience. Psychophysiology, 46: 922–931. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2009.00831.x
- Issue published online: 11 SEP 2009
- Article first published online: 12 MAY 2009
- (Received February 29, 2008; Accepted October 23, 2008)
- Eye movements;
- Facial expression;
- Mutual gaze;
- Nonverbal communication;
- Virtual characters
The present study aimed to investigate the impact of facial expression, gaze interaction, and gender on attention allocation, physiological arousal, facial muscle responses, and emotional experience in simulated social interactions. Participants viewed animated virtual characters varying in terms of gender, gaze interaction, and facial expression. We recorded facial EMG, fixation duration, pupil size, and subjective experience. Subject's rapid facial reactions (RFRs) differentiated more clearly between the character's happy and angry expression in the condition of mutual eye-to-eye contact. This finding provides evidence for the idea that RFRs are not simply motor responses, but part of an emotional reaction. Eye movement data showed that fixations were longer in response to both angry and neutral faces than to happy faces, thereby suggesting that attention is preferentially allocated to cues indicating potential threat during social interaction.