Although facial paralysis (FP) is a relatively common condition, affecting 127,000 Americans each year, there is a serious gap in understanding social functioning for people with this socially disabling disorder. My long- term goal is to develop interventions to improve social functioning for people with FP. The overall objective of this project, which is the next step toward attainment of my long-term goal, is to identify the compensatory expressive behaviors (i.e. gestures and prosody) that people with FP use to communicate and how other people interpret these behaviors to form impressions about their emotions and other attributes. My central hypothesis is that people with FP can compensate by using other expressive channels (body and voice) and that perceivers can improve the accuracy of their impressions of people with FP by focusing on their bodies and voices. The rationale that underlies the proposed research is that once compensatory expressive behaviors are identified and a perceiver training is tested, these can be used to develop interventions to improve social functioning.
The specific aims of the proposed research project are to: 1) Identify the expressive behaviors that people with FP use to communicate their emotions and attributes;2) Determine the accuracy of perceivers'impressions of the emotions and attributes of people with FP and examine the relative contribution of different channels to accuracy. 3) Examine whether training perceivers to attend to channels other than the face improves accuracy of impressions. The proposed research consists of three social perception studies. In Study 1, adults with various types of FP (targets), including both congenital and acquired conditions are videotaped while being interviewed about their experiences living with FP. Trained research assistants will rate the expressive behaviors and severity of paralysis of the targets. In Studies 2-3, participants without FP (perceivers) will view 1 minute clips of the Study 1 targets and rate their impressions of the targets'emotions and attributes. In Study 2, perceivers will be given one or more expressive channels to observe: voice only, body only, face only, body and voice, or all channels. In Study 3, which tests a training intervention to improve accuracy, some participants will be trained to attend to the body and voice when rating their impressions of targets with FP, and others will not receive training. The proposed research is significant because it is expected to vertically advance understanding of how people with FP can use compensatory expressive behavior and how perceivers can form impressions based on this behavior. Ultimately, such knowledge will inform development of interventions that will improve social functioning for people with FP.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research is relevant to public health because it will improve social functioning for people with FP and other people with reduced facial expressivity-including people with hemifacial microsomia, depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Parkinson's disease-by laying the groundwork to develop the following two lines of interventions: 1) a social functioning intervention for people with FP that encourages the use of compensatory expressive behaviors, and 2) an intervention for healthcare practitioners and family members of people with FP that trains them to attend to channels other than the face to improve the accuracy of their impressions. This project will advance the goals of NIDCR by clarifying the mechanisms by which chronic craniofacial conditions affect patient social functioning and advance the goals of NIMH by elucidating the relative contribution of different expressive channels to accuracy when the signal quality of the face is poor.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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NIDCR Special Grants Review Committee (DSR)
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Frieden, Leslie A
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Tufts University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Bogart, Kathleen R; Tickle-Degnen, Linda (2015) Looking beyond the face: a training to improve perceivers' impressions of people with facial paralysis. Patient Educ Couns 98:251-6
Bogart, Kathleen; Tickle-Degnen, Linda; Ambady, Nalini (2014) Communicating without the Face: Holistic Perception of Emotions of People with Facial Paralysis. Basic Appl Soc Psych 36:309-320
Bogart, Kathleen R; Tickle-Degnen, Linda; Ambady, Nalini (2012) Compensatory expressive behavior for facial paralysis: adaptation to congenital or acquired disability. Rehabil Psychol 57:43-51