Smile Mimicry and Emotional Contagion in Audio-Visual Computer-Mediated Communication

Frontiers in Psychology 9:411451 (2018)
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We investigate whether smile mimicry and emotional contagion are evident in non-text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC). Via an ostensibly real-time audio-visual CMC platform, participants interacted with a confederate who either smiled radiantly or displayed a neutral expression throughout the interaction. Automatic analyses of expressions displayed by participants indicated that smile mimicry was at play: A higher level of activation of the facial muscle that characterises genuine smiles was observed among participants who interacted with the smiling confederate than among participants who interacted with the unexpressive confederate. However, there was no difference in the self-reported level of joviality between participants in the two conditions. Our findings demonstrate that people mimic smiles in audio-visual CMC, but that even though the diffusion of emotions has been documented in text-based CMC in previous studies, we find no convincing support for the phenomenon of emotional contagion in non-text-based CMC.



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