Gernot Gerger, Helmut Leder, Pablo Tinio and Annekathrin Schacht

Faces versus patterns: Exploring aesthetic reactions using facial EMG.

Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts

We used facial EMG to examine reactions to the attractiveness of natural (faces) and artificial (abstract patterns) stimuli under long and short presentation durations. Attractive stimuli produced strong activations of the M. zygomaticus major muscle, indicating positive affective reactions; and unattractive stimuli produced strong activations of the M. corrugator supercili muscle, indicating negative affective reactions. Fluency effects, indicated by stronger activations of the M. zygomaticus major under the longer presentation duration were, however, only found for the abstract patterns. Moreover, the abstract patterns also were associated with more consistent activations over time than the faces, suggesting differences in the processes underlying the evaluation of faces and patterns. We discuss these results in terms of differences in appraisal processes between the two classes of stimuli—the greater biological, social, and sociosexual significance of faces trigger more complex appraisals than the abstract patterns.