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Alternative Title

Facial expressivity, emotional coherence, and posttraumatic stress disorder

Publication Date


First Advisor

Nnamdi Pole

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Emotions, Psychotherapy, Facial expressions, P.T.S.D., Single-case research, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Single subject research, Facial expressions-Psychological aspects


As a public display of inner affect, facial expressivity is a potential component of emotional coherence, the coordination of the experiential, behavioral, and physiological components of an emotion. Facial expressivity of emotion has been thought to vary based on clinical features of particular diagnoses (e.g., excessive emotional suppression in PTSD). However, previous emotion studies have used methods to elicit facial expressions of emotion in participants, such as photographs and film clips, which are of questionable ecological validity. In the present case study, psychotherapy was used as a method to elicit genuine and clinically relevant emotions. We applied facial affect coding to observe the relationship between the emotional facial behavior and symptom severity as well as how such behavior changes over the course of treatment. We also examined the emotional coherence between the client’s facial expressions, self-reported emotion, and use of emotional language. Over the course of sixteen psychotherapy sessions, results revealed a decrease in fearful facial expressions and an increase in positive facial behaviors. Moreover, several analyses including a mixed model analysis demonstrated a significant increase in coherence between her positive facial behaviors and both self-reported emotion and emotional language over time. Implications include the potential value of closely examining facial behavior and emotional language in psychotherapy and value of tracking disorder-specific emotions (e.g., fear in PTSD).


2018 Julianna Rose Calabrese. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




61 pages : illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 43-51)