Chapter 4

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21 Jun 2011

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Chapter 4: Communications of Emotions
People express emotions with facial actions, with their voice, with touch, with posture, with their gait
Five kinds of nonverbal behaviour
Often single words likesmile” fail adequately to describe the language of nonverbal communication
Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen organized language of nonverbal behaviour into 5 categories
1.Emblems: nonverbal gestures that directly translate to words
Examples: peace sign, rubbing of one forefinger with other to say “shame on you”
Emblems vary in their meaning across cultures (examples on page 86)
2.Illustrator: a nonverbal gesture that accompanies our speech, often makes it vivid and visual
We make hand gestures most of the time when we speak
McNeill shown that these gestures slightly precede the corresponding words we say
3.Regulators: nonverbal behaviours that we use to coordinate conversation
People look and point at and orient their bodies toward people whom they want to start
speaking. They look and turn their bodies away from those they wish would stop speaking
4.Self-adaptor: nervous behaviours people engage in with no seeming intention, as if simply to
release nervous energy
People touch their necks, tug at their hair, jiggle their legs and stroke their chins
The markers of emotional expressions
Expressions of emotion tend to be fairly brief, typically lasting between 1 and 10 seconds
Facial expressions of emotion involve involuntary muscle actions that people cannot produce when they
feel like it, and cannot suppress, even when instructed to do so
oExample: facial expression of anger involves action of the muscle that tightens around the mouth,
which most people cannot produce voluntarily
oAffective displays, as opposed to mock or feigned expressions are reliable indicators of
individuals feeling
Emotional expressions should have their parallels, or homologues, in the displays of other species
oIf emotions derive from our evolutionary heritage, then certain elements of human affective
displays should be seen in other species
Studies of the universality of facial expressions
Darwin proposed 3 principles to explain why emotional expressions have the appearance that they do
1.Principle of serviceable habits: expressive behaviours that have led to rewards will re-occur in the
Example, furrowed brow, which protects the eyes from blows and exposed teeth, which
signal imminent attack, are beneficial in aggressive encounters, therefore they occur when
youre angry
2.Principle of antithesis: opposing states will be associated with opposing expressions
Example, strength and confidence expressed by expanding chest and shoulders whereas
weakness and uncertainty are expressed by opposite, a shoulder shrug
This principle is probably at play in properties of expressions of embarrassment and pride
3.Principle of nervous discharge: excess, undirected energy is released in random expressions, such
as face touches, leg jiggles
Darwin advanced his claim that facial expressions of emotion, as part of our evolutionary heritage, are
human universals- several evidence
A.Encoding hypothesis: if emotions are universal, the experience of different emotions should be
associated with the same distinct facial expressions in every society, worldwide
B.Decoding hypothesis: if there are universal emotions, people of different cultures should interpret
these expressions in same way
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Two studies (pages 89-91)
Critiques of the studies of universal facial expressions
3 critiques of hypothesis of universal facial expressions
1.Gradient critique: according to universality hypothesis, facial expressions that are universal
should be produced in much the same way, and be equally recognizable in all cultures
Results show gradients between recognition of some expressions that are well recognized
universally, like happiness, and other expressions such as fear, surprise, and disgust,
which are less well recognized by people in cultures remote from those of the person
portraying the expression
2.Forced choice: in Ekman and Friesens study, and many other judgment studies, participants were
forced to label the expressions using terms the researchers provided
Might participants label the faces in different fashion if allowed to use their own words?
Best way to address this critique: simply gather participants’ own descriptions of photos of facial
expressions of emotions, and ascertain whether there is universality in their free response data
oHaidt and Keltner did this in United States and India- participants asked to label 14 different
expressions, including Ekman expressions, in their own words
Reported evidence that tended to support gradient critique- found gradient of recognition
in which some expressions were more recognizable than others
Reported evidence to counter forced choice critique- participants used similar concepts in
labelling facial expressions of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise and
3.Ecological validity: perhaps expressions portrayed in Ekmans studies are not the kinds of
expressions that people routinely judge in their daily lives
Expressions are highly stylized and exaggerated- whether everyday expressions of anger,
disgust, fear, sadness would look like the expressions in Ekman and Friesen photos
Whether more subtle expressions of emotion, perhaps more typical of everyday emotional
expressions, would be so reliably judged
Discovering new facial displays of emotions
Contempt is newly discovered universal facial expressions
oExpressed by asymmetrical tightening of lip corners or sneer, conveys a moral disapproval or
Laughter involving contraction of muscle surrounding eyes also appears to be signal of distinct emotion,
namely exhilaration
To document emotional expressions beyond the 6 by Ekman and contempt + exhalation
oOne needs to show that experience of specific emotion correlated with unique pattern of facial
actions (encoding evidence)
oThen show that others perceive that display as a sign of the target emotions, preferably in
different cultures (decoding evidence)
oImportant for evolutionary claims to show that other species show similar expressive behaviours
in contexts that resemble those of emotion of interest
Thought of by many as appeasement-related emotion, which signals the individuals lower status, in
particular after transgressions, so as to bring about social reconciliation
To characterize nonverbal actions of embarrassment, Keltner chose task in which participants’ heads
would be relatively stationary, so facial actions would be coded in frame-by-frame analyses
Participant completed following task: raise your eyebrows, close one eye, pucker your lips, puff out your
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