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Emotional expressions of the sick face
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; New York University, USA.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8323-0714
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Number of Authors: 92019 (English)In: Brain, behavior, and immunity, ISSN 0889-1591, E-ISSN 1090-2139, Vol. 80, p. 286-291Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

To handle the substantial threat posed by infectious diseases, behaviors that promote avoidance of contagion are crucial. Based on the fact that sickness depresses mood and that emotional expressions reveal inner states of individuals to others, which in turn affect approach/avoidance behaviors, we hypothesized that facial expressions of emotion may play a role in sickness detection. Using an experimental model of sickness, 22 volunteers were intravenously injected with either endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide; 2 ng/kg body weight) and placebo using a randomized cross-over design. The volunteers were two hours later asked to keep a relaxed expression on their face while their facial photograph was taken. To assess the emotional expression of the sick face, 49 participants were recruited and were asked to rate the emotional expression of the facial photographs of the volunteers when sick and when healthy. Our results indicate that the emotional expression of faces changed two hours after being made temporarily sick by an endotoxin injection. Sick faces were perceived as more sick/less healthy, but also as expressing more negative emotions, such as sadness and disgust, and less happiness and surprise. The emotional expressions mediated 59.1% of the treatment-dependent change in rated health. The inclusion of physical features associated with emotional expressions to the mediation analysis supported these results. We conclude that emotional expressions may contribute to detection and avoidance of infectious individuals and thereby be part of a behavioral defense against disease.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 80, p. 286-291
Keywords [en]
Inflammation, Sickness detection, Lipopolysaccharide, Emotion, Facial expression
National Category
Neurosciences Neurology Psychiatry
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-171675DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.003ISI: 000478105500029PubMedID: 30953768OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-171675DiVA, id: diva2:1344556
Available from: 2019-08-21 Created: 2019-08-21 Last updated: 2019-08-21Bibliographically approved

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Axelsson, JohnSundelin, TinaLasselin, JulieLundström, Johan N.Lekander, Mats
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Stress Research InstituteDepartment of Linguistics
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NeurosciencesNeurologyPsychiatry

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