The present studies investigated whether mimicry effects on empathizing depend on whether emotional expressions are seen as acted or real. In Study 1, participants saw a fragment from a reality "soap." Half of them received an instruction to imitate facial expressions of the main character, while the other half were instructed not to imitate. Participants caught more emotions and reported more perspective-taking (taking the perspective of the target) when imitating expressions. However, among participants who assumed that the emotions were acted, imitation affected emotional contagion, but not perspective-taking. These effects were replicated in Study 2, in which we manipulated whether emotions were perceived as real. In the Discussion, these findings are linked to the social functions of imitation and to the automaticity of emotional contagion.
- Facial expressions