Facial Feedback what is Facial Feedback Interpreting Facial Feedback Facial Expressions

Aside from the normal emotional reactions to events as a result of cognition, there are also those that happen instantaneously. According to Deckers, (2010),“it is difficult for people to state the reason for a particular affective judgment. They know what they like or dislike even if they cannot state the reason for it” (p.341 ). There is also the issue of understanding the cognitive process in people who have developmental disabilities, and whether the disability actually impairs their emotional response. It might be assumed that information which is processed more slowly or differently may result in a response that was not expected, or one that would differ greatly to the response presented by an individual who does not have any cognitive dysfunction. However, there is evidence to suggest that this assumption is far from being true.


In an article published in 2008, Stel, Heuvel and Smeets pointed out that mimicry is an innate tendency that even infants less than one hour old possess. Furthermore, “people without disorders tend to mimic others automatically and unconsciously” (p. 1250). In contrast, people with Autism Spectrum Disorders appear to be processing events and drawing conclusions based on individual thought. That is, “The impairments in social interactions that individuals with ASD experience, seem to resemble, in a way, the impairments people without disorders would experience when refrained from mimicking.” (p.1250).  The results of research concluded that although adolescents with ASD do present with expression-emotion responses, they are somewhat different, and perhaps unique to those expressed by adolescents without disorders. (Stel, Heuvel & Smeets, 2008, p. 1256).

Misinterpretation of Facial Feedback

There are numerous reasons why facial feedback can be misinterpreted, and of course the lack of facial feedback altogether can produce mixed responses from those seeking to understand facial expressions in order to formulate appropriate responses. An interesting study by Davis, Senghas, Brandt & Ochsner  (2008) drew vague conclusions about whether facial expressions produced by people with cosmetic enhancement from substances such as Botox were impaired. They referred to previous research by William James (1894), and reported that although facial feedback may influence an emotion experience, “Our data suggest that the nature of the connection between mind and body may be more complex than even he suspected” (p. 440).

There are many variables to consider when trying to understand expressions and emotions from facial feedback, and an interesting conclusion was drawn from research conducted by Andréasson & Dimberg (2008).  They found that “ people high as compared to low in emotional empathy are more sensitive to facial feedback” (p. 221). Moreover, they pinpointed empathy as a possible significant factor in determining individual differences in the effect produced from facial feedback (p. 223).


Andréasson, P., & Dimberg, U. (2008). Emotional Empathy and Facial Feedback. Journal Of Nonverbal Behavior, 32(4), 215-224. doi:10.1007/s10919-008-0052-z

Davis, J., Senghas, A., Brandt, F., & Ochsner, K. (2010). The effects of BOTOX injections on emotional experience. Emotion, 10(3), 433-440. doi:10.1037/a0018690

Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental (3rd ed.).Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection

Stel, M., Heuvel, C., & Smeets, R. (2008). Facial feedback mechanisms in autistic spectrum disorders. Journal Of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 38(7), 1250-1258.