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Pupil dilation reflects the authenticity of received nonverbal vocalizations

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  • Cosme Gonçalo
  • Pedro Rosa
  • Cesar Lima
  • Vania Tavares
  • Sophie Scott
  • Sinead Chen
  • Thom Wilcockson
  • Trevor Crawford
  • Diana Prata
Article number3733
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/02/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Scientific Reports
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The ability to infer the authenticity of other’s emotional expressions is a social cognitive process taking place in all human interactions. Although the neurocognitive correlates of authenticity recognition have been probed, its potential recruitment of the peripheral autonomic nervous system is not known. In this work, we asked participants to rate the authenticity of authentic and acted laughs and cries, while simultaneously recording their pupil size, taken as proxy of cognitive effort and arousal. We report, for the first time, that acted laughs elicited higher pupil dilation than authentic ones and, reversely, authentic cries elicited higher pupil dilation than acted ones. We tentatively suggest the lack of authenticity in others’ laughs elicits increased pupil dilation through demanding higher cognitive effort; and that, reversely, authenticity in cries increases pupil dilation, through eliciting higher emotional arousal. We also show authentic vocalizations and laughs (i.e. main effects of authenticity and emotion) to be perceived as more authentic, arousing and contagious than acted vocalizations
and cries, respectively. In conclusion, we show new evidence that the recognition of emotional authenticity can be manifested at the level of the autonomic nervous system in humans. Notwithstanding, given its novelty, further independent research is warranted to ascertain its psychological meaning.