Decoding of facially expressed emotions in patients with psychosomatic gastrointestinal disorders.
Center for Psychobiological and Psychosomatic Research, University of Trier, Germany.
The hypothesis that individuals with psychosomatic conditions are lacking in empathy was tested by investigating decoding abilities of facially expressed emotions. Fourteen subjects with psychosomatic gastrointestinal disorders and 14 matched controls participated. Slides of one male and one female model's facial expressions of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise, and a neutral face, were presented to subjects, with exposure durations of 1/60, 1/15, and 4 seconds. Subjects had to decide whether the face presented was neutral or expressed one of the basic emotions. There were no significant group differences in decoding neutral expressions, but significant differences resulted in decoding emotional expressions. This was mainly due to the significantly poorer performance of the psychosomatic group in decoding disgust. Subjects' responding was found to be reliable. The findings show that at least certain subgroups of psychosomatic patients tend to misinterpret another person's facial expressions that signal unpleasantness or interpersonal conflict.