The face of future: Face expressions during future thinking

Mohamad El Haj, Emin Altintas, Ahmed A. Moustafa, Abdel Halim Boudoukha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Future thinking, which is the ability to project oneself forward in time to pre-experience an event, is intimately associated with emotions. We investigated whether emotional future thinking can activate emotional facial expressions. We invited 43 participants to imagine future scenarios, cued by the words "happy," "sad," and "city." Future thinking was video recorded and analysed with a facial analysis software to classify whether facial expressions (i.e., happy, sad, angry, surprised, scared, disgusted, and neutral facial expression) of participants were neutral or emotional. Analysis demonstrated higher levels of happy facial expressions during future thinking cued by the word "happy" than "sad" or "city." In contrast, higher levels of sad facial expressions were observed during future thinking cued by the word "sad" than "happy" or "city." Higher levels of neutral facial expressions were observed during future thinking cued by the word "city" than "happy" or "sad." In the three conditions, the neutral facial expressions were high compared with happy and sad facial expressions. Together, emotional future thinking, at least for future scenarios cued by "happy" and "sad," seems to trigger the corresponding facial expression. Our study provides an original physiological window into the subjective emotional experience during future thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1360-1367
Number of pages8
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Volume74
Issue number8
Early online date15 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

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