August 10, 2009

Study: Language can affect emotions

Seeing a smile, or reading about the verb to smile can activate the muscles in the face that make that expression, Dutch researchers found.

Francesco Foroni from VU University in Amsterdam and Gun R. Semin of the University of Utrecht conducted an experiment with a group of students. They had the students read a series of emotion verbs -- to smile, to cry -- and adjectives -- funny, frustrating -- on a monitor, while the activity of the muscle responsible for smiles and the muscle causing frowns were measured.

Reading to laugh resulted in activation of the smiling muscle, but did not cause any response in the muscles responsible for frowning.

However, when the study subjects were presented with the emotion adjectives like funny or frustrating the volunteers demonstrated much lower muscle activation compared to their reactions to emotion verbs.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, said muscle activity is induced in the reader when reading verbs representing facial expressions of emotion.