Facial Muscle Patterning and Subjective Experience During Affective Imagery: Sex Differences

Gary E. Schwartz, Serena‐Lynn ‐L Brown, Geoffrey L. Ahern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Facial electromyographic (EMG) activity was recorded from the zygomatic, corrugator, masse‐ter and frontalis muscle regions in 30 male and 30 female subjects. Forty‐eight items were selected to reflect happy, sad, angry and fearful situations. Subjects imagined each of the items for 40 sec and rated how they felt on a scale tapping the four emotions. The results indicated that for certain emotions, muscle regions and ratings, females (as compared to males): 1) generated facial EMG patterns of greater magnitude (relative to rest) during affective imagery, 2) reported a stronger experience of emotion to the imagery, 3) showed greater within‐subject correlations between the experience of emotions and facial EMG, 4) evidenced somewhat higher corrugator and significantly lower masseter EMG activity during rest, and 5) generated greater facial EMG changes during a post‐imagery, voluntary facial expression condition. Cultural and biological interpretations of the data are considered. The importance of evaluating gender in psychophysiological studies of emotion is stressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1980


  • Affective imagery
  • Differential emotion theory
  • Facial muscle activity
  • Physiological patterning
  • Sex differences
  • Subjective experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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