Voluntary facial expression and hemispheric asymmetry over the frontal cortex

James A. Coan, John J.B. Allen, Eddie Harmon-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Scopus citations


Brain activity was monitored while 36 participants produced facial configurations denoting anger, disgust, fear, joy, and sadness. EEG alpha power was analyzed during each facial pose, with facial conditions grouped according to the approach/withdrawal motivational model of emotion. This model suggests that "approach" emotions are associated with relatively greater left frontal brain activity whereas "withdrawal" emotions are associated with relatively greater right frontal brain activity. In the context of a bilateral decrease in activation, facial poses of emotions in the withdrawal condition resulted in relatively less left frontal activation in the lateral-frontal, midfrontal and frontal-temporal-central region, but not in the parietal region, as predicted. Findings in the approach condition were less consistently supportive of predictions of the approach/withdrawal model. Implications for the approach/withdrawal model and for the emotion eliciting potential of voluntary facial movement are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)912-925
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Approach/withdrawal
  • Emotion
  • Frontal cortex
  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Voluntary facial movement

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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