Rumination prolongs negative affect (Morrow & Nolen- Hoeksema, 1990) and predicts depression (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). As facial musculature has the ability to influence emotional experience (e.g. Magid et al., 2014), I aimed to determine how depressive rumination may be associated with activity at facial muscle sites commonly associated with negative (i.e. corrugator supercilii) and positive (i.e. zygomaticus and orbicularis oculi) affect. I hypothesized that rumination would be associated with greater corrugator, and lesser orbicularis and zygomatic activity compared to baseline; furthermore, I hypothesized that rumination would prolong facial muscle activation experienced during a negative mood induction while distraction would attenuate it. Participants were 39 students from a small Midwestern college (Mage = 19.44, SD = 1.40, 51% female). Following baseline conditions, participants experienced a negative mood induction followed by emotion-regulation inductions (rumination and distraction, counter balanced with a negative mood reminder in between). Participants completed mood ratings, and electromyography (EMG) was used to continuously monitor facial muscle activity. Replicating past research, rumination prolonged self-reported negative affect, while distraction attenuated it. Facial EMG data partially supported the hypotheses; corrugator activity was significantly higher and orbicularis activity was significantly lower during the rumination condition compared to the baseline condition of ocean waves. Additionally, rumination maintained corrugator activity near levels seen during the negative mood induction. Implications for preventing depression include training awareness of facial muscle activation through mindfulness, biofeedback with EMG, and injections of botulinum toxin A at the corrugator.
Level of Honors
summa cum laude
Swords, Caroline, "Getting Stuck: Understanding the Perseverative Nature of Rumination with Facial Electromyography" (2019). Lawrence University Honors Projects. 140.