Conscious awareness is necessary to assess trust and mimic facial expressions, while pupils impact trust unconsciously

E Prochazkova*, D Venneker, R de Zwart, M Tamietto, M E Kret*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

People make rapid inferences about others' thoughts and intentions. For example, they observe facial movements and pupil size of others and unwittingly make use of this information when deciding whether to trust someone or not. However, whether spontaneous mimicry depends on visual awareness of the stimulus and whether these processes underlie trust decisions is still unknown. To investigate whether visual awareness modulates the relationship between emotional expressions, mimicry and trust, participants played a series of trust games and saw either their partners' faces with a neutral, happy or fearful expression, or their partners' eyes in which the pupil size was large, medium or small. Subjects' trust investments, facial movements and pupil responses were measured. In half of the trials, the stimuli were rendered invisible by continuous flash suppression. Results showed that facial expressions were mimicked and influenced trust decisions during the conscious condition, but not during the unconscious (suppressed) condition. The opposite was found for pupil size, which influenced trust decisions during states of unawareness. These results suggest that the neurobiological pathway linking the observation of facial expressions to mimicry and trust is predominantly conscious, whereas partner pupil size influences trust primarily when presented unconsciously. This article is part of the theme issue 'Cracking the laugh code: laughter through the lens of biology, psychology and neuroscience'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210183
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume377
Issue number1863
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • AMYGDALA
  • BLINDSIGHT
  • CONTAGION
  • CONTINUOUS FLASH SUPPRESSION
  • EMOTION
  • FEARFUL FACES
  • MECHANISMS
  • PERCEPTION
  • RESPONSES
  • SIZE
  • affect
  • consciousness
  • continuous flash suppression
  • facial expression mimicry
  • pupil mimicry

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