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Biol Psychol. 1994 Oct;38(2-3):95-115.

Social and emotional functions in facial expression and communication: the readout hypothesis.

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  • 1University of Connecticut, Storrs 06269-1085.


Fridlund (Fridlund, A.J. (1991). Biological Psychology, 32, 3-100) has argued that facial displays are specific to intent and context, rather than being readouts of underlying motivational-emotional states. This paper responds that these views are not incompatible, and that subjective emotional experience functions in part to enhance the learned control of emotional expression and communication. It summarizes the readout position, answers Fridlund's criticisms identifying it with the different notion of "spillover," and contends that the expressive readout functions in spontaneous communication. Fridlund's assertions that the readout is a reflex-like process, and that the readout view has ignored the receiver's coevolutionary role in communication, are addressed. Evidence supporting the readout view is presented, including studies suggesting that there are hierarchically organized neurochemical systems underlying subjective, expressive, and peripheral physiological responses. Such primary motivational-emotional systems (primes) are basic to the readout theory.

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