Bridging the Gap: Integrating Facial Processing and Embodiment Research

by Prof. Paola Sessa, Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialisation, University of Padova

When: February 15, 2024, at 3:00 pm

Where: Sala Seminari VIMM (Fondazione per la Ricerca Biomedica Avanzata Onlus, Via Orus 2, Padova)

Abstract: This presentation delves into the role of embodiment and sensorimotor simulation in processing facial expressions, challenging traditional views with insights from studies on healthy participants and Moebius Syndrome (MBS) patients, who have facial palsy. It begins by emphasizing the evolutionary sophistication of human facial muscles for non-verbal communication and introduces the core and extended systems in the brain responsible for interpreting these expressions. Through a series of experiments, the speaker explores how altered facial mimicry affects perception, awareness, and memory of emotions, revealing nuanced findings that also suggest empathy and alexithymic traits play significant roles. The conclusions advocate for an integrated model of emotion recognition that combines embodiment with cognitive processing/strategies, suggesting that understanding emotion is more complex than previously thought.