Facial expression primes and implicit regulation of negative emotion

Heungsik Yoon, Shin Ah Kim, Sang Hee Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


An individual's responses to emotional information are influenced not only by the emotional quality of the information, but also by the context in which the information is presented. We hypothesized that facial expressions of happiness and anger would serve as primes to modulate subjective and neural responses to subsequently presented negative information. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a functional MRI study in which the brains of healthy adults were scanned while they performed an emotion-rating task. During the task, participants viewed a series of negative and neutral photos, one at a time; each photo was presented after a picture showing a face expressing a happy, angry, or neutral emotion. Brain imaging results showed that compared with neutral primes, happy facial primes increased activation during negative emotion in the dorsal anterior cingulated cortex and the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which are typically implicated in conflict detection and implicit emotion control, respectively. Conversely, relative to neutral primes, angry primes activated the right middle temporal gyrus and the left supramarginal gyrus during the experience of negative emotion. Activity in the amygdala in response to negative emotion was marginally reduced after exposure to happy primes compared with angry primes. Relative to neutral primes, angry facial primes increased the subjectively experienced intensity of negative emotion. The current study results suggest that prior exposure to facial expressions of emotions modulates the subsequent experience of negative emotion by implicitly activating the emotion-regulation system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-553
Number of pages6
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jun 9


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • amygdala
  • emotion regulation
  • fMRI
  • facial expressions
  • ventrolateral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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