Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Seeing happiness in ambiguous facial expressions reduces aggressive behavior

Date:
March 28, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Encouraging young people at high-risk of criminal offending and delinquency to see happiness rather than anger in facial expressions results in a decrease in their levels of anger and aggression, according to a new study.

Encouraging young people at high-risk of criminal offending and delinquency to see happiness rather than anger in facial expressions results in a decrease in their levels of anger and aggression.
Credit: © william87 / Fotolia

Encouraging young people at high-risk of criminal offending and delinquency to see happiness rather than anger in facial expressions results in a decrease in their levels of anger and aggression, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Related Articles


The study, led by Marcus Munafς and Ian Penton-Voak of the University of Bristol (UK), explored the relationship between recognition of emotion in ambiguous facial expressions and aggressive thoughts and behavior, both in healthy adults and in adolescent youth considered to be at high-risk of committing crime.

The researchers showed it was possible to experimentally modify biases in emotion recognition to encourage the perception of happiness over anger when viewing ambiguous expressions. This resulted in a decrease in measures of self-reported anger and aggression in both healthy adults and high-risk adolescents, and also for independently-rated aggressive behavior in the adolescents.

To modify these biases, participants were shown composite images of facial expressions that were happy, angry or emotionally ambiguous and asked to rate them as happy or angry. This established a baseline balance point of how likely they were to read ambiguous faces as angry. The researchers then used feedback to nudge some of the participants away from this negativity bias by telling them that some of the ambiguous faces they had previously labeled as angry were in fact happy.

In the first experiment in 40 healthy volunteers, this ultimately resulted in the participants learning to identify happiness in these faces rather than anger -- and these participants subsequently reported lower levels of anger and aggression in themselves.

The experiment was then repeated with 46 adolescents aged 11 to 16 years old who had been referred to a youth program, either by the courts or by schools, as being at high risk of committing crime and with a high frequency of aggressive behavior.

Again, participants trained to recognize happiness rather than anger in the ambiguous faces reported less aggressive behavior. In addition, incidence of aggressive behavior -- as recorded independently by program staff in the week before and the two weeks following the training -- were also reduced.

To test this result further, the researchers then ran a different experiment on a further 53 healthy volunteers which did not rely on explicit feedback to change the way participants judged facial expressions.

Previous studies have shown that prolonged viewing of an image subsequently alters the perception of similar images, so one group of participants was shown only angry faces while a control group looked at an equal mix of happy and angry faces.

The researchers found that those shown only angry faces subsequently shifted their perceptions and became more likely to see happiness in ambiguous faces. Again, they also reported lower levels of anger and aggression in themselves.

"Our results provide strong evidence that emotion processing plays a causal role in anger and the maintenance of aggressive behavior. This could potentially lead to novel behavioral treatments in the future," said Munafς.

In addition to Penton-Voak and Munafς, co-authors on the research include Jamie Thomas of the University of Wales Institute, Suzanne Gage and Sarah McDonald of the University of Bristol, and Mary McMurran of the University of Nottingham.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. I. S. Penton-Voak, J. Thomas, S. H. Gage, M. McMurran, S. McDonald, M. R. Munafo. Increasing Recognition of Happiness in Ambiguous Facial Expressions Reduces Anger and Aggressive Behavior. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612459657

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Seeing happiness in ambiguous facial expressions reduces aggressive behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130328080559.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, March 28). Seeing happiness in ambiguous facial expressions reduces aggressive behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130328080559.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Seeing happiness in ambiguous facial expressions reduces aggressive behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130328080559.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, February 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) — People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) — Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) — A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Replace Damaged Hands With Prostheses

Researchers Replace Damaged Hands With Prostheses

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) — Scientists in Austria have been able to fit patients who&apos;ve lost the use of a hand with bionic prostheses the patients control with their minds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins