Emotions are the fuel of human survival and social development. Not only do we undergo primitive reflexes mediated by ancient brain structures, but we also consciously and unconsciously regulate our emotions in social contexts, affiliating with friends and distancing from foes. One of our main tools for emotion regulation is facial expression and, in particular, smiles. Smiles are deeply grounded in human behavior: they develop early, and are used across cultures to communicate affective states. The mechanisms that underlie their cognitive processing include interactions not only with visual, but also emotional and motor systems. Smiles, trigger facial imitation in their observers, reactions thought to be a key component of the human capacity for empathy.
Smiles, however, are not only experienced visually, but also have audible consequences. Although visual smiles have been widely studied, almost nothing is known about the cognitive processing of their auditory counterpart. This is the aim of this dissertation. In this work, we characterise and model the smile acousitc fingerprint, and use it to probe how auditory smiles are processed cognitively. We give here evidence that (1) auditory smiles can trigger unconscious facial imitation, that (2) they are cognitively integrated with their visual counterparts during perception, and that (3) the development of these processes does not depend on pre-learned visual associations. We conclude that the embodied mechanisms associated to the visual processing of facial expressions of emotions are in fact equally found in the auditory modality, and that their cognitive development is at least partially independent from visual experience.
Pablo Arias will defend his doctoral carried out in the Perception and Sound Design Team (STMS - CNRS/IRCAM/Sorbonne Université/Ministère de la Culture).
The jury will be composed:
Rachael Jack , Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology, University of Glasgow
Tecumseh Fitch, Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna
Julie Grèzes, Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives et Computationnelles, ENS
Catherine Pelachaud, Institut des Systèmes Intelligents et de Robotique, Sorbonne Université
Martine Gavaret, Centre de recherche en Psychiatrie et Neurosciences, Paris Descartes
Pascal Belin, Institut de Neurosciences de la Timone, CNRS, Aix Marseille Université
Jean-Julien Aucouturier, STMS - CNRS/IRCAM/Sorbonne Université/Ministère de la Culture
Patrick Susini, STMS - IRCAM/CNRS/Sorbonne Université/Ministère de la Culture