The enfacement illusion boosts facial mimicry

Ilaria Minio-Paluello, Giuseppina Porciello, Marco Gandolfo, Sarah Boukarras, Salvatore M. Aglioti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Facial mimicry, the automatic imitation of another person's emotion, is a mechanism underlying emotion recognition and emotional contagion, a phylogenetically conserved form of empathy that precedes later developing empathic skills. We tested the possibility to increase facial mimicry by blurring self-other distinction via the enfacement illusion. To do so we delivered synchronous, versus asynchronous, visuo-tactile interpersonal multisensory stimulation on the observer and expresser's faces and then recorded surface facial EMG while participants observed videos of happy and sad facial expressions displayed by the expresser. Our results show that synchronous visuo-tactile stimulation can indeed enhance facial mimicry and that this depends on participants' baseline tendency to mimic. Our findings could set the basis for developing novel interventions for conditions characterized by reduced empathic and emotion recognition skills, including autism and schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-123
Number of pages11
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Oct 25 2019


  • Emotional contagion
  • Empathy
  • Enfacement illusion
  • Facial mimicry
  • Multisensory stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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