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Facial expression of positive emotions in individuals with eating disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Marcela Marin Dapelo, Sharon Hart, Christiane Hale, Robin Morris, Thomas R Lynch, Kate Tchanturia

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research
Accepted/In press12 Aug 2015

King's Authors


A large body of research has associated Eating Disorders with difficulties in socio-emotional functioning and it has been argued that they may serve to maintain the illness. This study aimed to explore facial expressions of positive emotions in individuals with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN) compared to healthy controls (HC), through an examination of the Duchenne smile (DS), which has been associated with feelings of enjoyment, amusement and happiness (Ekman et al., 1990). Sixty participants (AN=20; BN=20; HC=20) were videotaped while watching a humorous film clip. The duration and intensity of DS were subsequently analyzed using the facial action coding system (FACS) (Ekman and Friesen, 2003). Participants with AN displayed DS for shorter durations than BN and HC participants, and their DS had lower intensity. In the clinical groups, lower duration and intensity of DS were associated with lower BMI, and use of psychotropic medication. The study is the first to explore DS in people with eating disorders, providing further evidence of difficulties in the socio-emotional domain in people with AN.

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