Chapter 4 Communication of Emotion
- Givens (1983) and Perper (1985) spent hours in single bars to figure out how men and women flirt.
o In the initial attention getting phase, men roll their shoulders and raise their arms with
exaggerated gestures that allow them to show off potential signs of their social status – their
well-developed arms or flashy washes.
o At the same time women smile coyly, they look askance, they flick their hair, and walk with
arched back and swaying hips.
o In the recognition phase, women and men gaze intently at each other, they express interest with
raised eyebrows, sing-song voice, melodious laughter, and subtle lip puckers. Then women and
men explore their interest in each other with provocative brushes of the arm, pats on the
shoulder, or not so accidental bumps against one another, looking for subtle signs of delight or
o Finally, in the keeping-time phase, the potential partners mirror each other’s glances, laughter,
gaze, and posture, to assess their interest in one another.
Five Kinds of Nonverbal Behaviour
- Words like smile, laugh and gaze are simple but they can refer to many classes of nonverbal behaviour
with different and often contrasting emotional connotations. Ex. there are many different smiles, with
different meanings because we smile to be polite, to hide inappropriate feelings of disgust or disapproval,
to express romantic attraction, to signal weakness and many others.
- Often single words like smile fail adequately to describe the language of nonverbal communication
- Ekman came up with 5 categories
1. Emblems – nonverbal gestures that directly translate to words like peace sign.
o They vary in their meanings across cultures
o Thumbs up in Australia is like the middle finger here
2. Illustrator – a nonverbal gesture that accompanies our speech, and often makes it vivid and visual.
We make hand gestures most of the time when we speak.
3. Regulators – Nonverbal behaviours that we use to coordinate conversation. People look and point at
and orient their bodies towards people whom they want to start speaking. They look and turn their
bodies away from those they wish would stop speaking.
4. Self-adaptors – Refers to 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.
5. Nonverbal expression or displays of emotions: signals in the face, voice, body and touch that convey
Facial Expression of Emotions
- How do we differentiate emotional expression from other kinds of nonverbal behaviour? Like a nervous
laugh from an exhilarated laugh.
- The makers of emotional expressions –
o The expression of emotion tends to be fairly brief, typically lasting between 1 and 10 seconds.
Like smiling because of enjoyment will start and stop within 10 seconds but a polite smile will be
exceptionally brief lasting a quarter of a second or endure for long time. o Facial expression of emotion involves involuntary muscle action that people cannot produce
when they feel like it, and cannot suppress even when instructed to do so. Anger = action of the
muscle tightens around the mouth.
o Emotional expressions should have their parallels, or homologues, in the displays of other
Studies of the Universality of Facial Expressions
- Darwin proposed 3 principles to explain why emotional expressions have the appearance they do.
1. According to the principle of serviceable habits, expressive behaviours that have led to rewards will
re-occur in the future
2. Principle of antithesis holds that opposing states will be associated with opposing expressions. Ex.
expanding the chest when confidence and strength and shoulder shrug = weakness and uncertainty
3. Principle of nervous discharge states that excess, undirected energy is released in random
expressions, such as face touches, leg jiggles, and the like.
- Darwin says facial expressions of emotions are human universals.
- Tomkin, Ekman and Carroll Izard looked at Darwin’s work and came up with 2 hypothesis
o Encoding Hypothesis – If emotions are universal, the experience of different emotions should be
associated with the same distinct facial expressions in every society, worldwide.
o Decoding Hypothesis – If there are universal emotions, people of different cultures should
interpret these expressions in the same ways.
- Ekman and Friesen showed 6 different emotions to 3000 people in 5 countries: Anger, Disgust, Fear,
Happiness , Sadness, and Surprise. The participants achieved accuracy of 80-90%. He even went to a place
called Fore where they had no exposure to Westerners and got same results.
- The implication is that recognition of the six facial expressions used in these studies is a universal, evolved
parts of human nature
Critiques of the Studies of Universal Facial Expressions
1. Gradient critique – According to the universality hypothesis, facial expressions that are universal should
be produced in much the same way, and be equally recognizable in all cultures.
o But results show gradients between the recognition of some expression that are well recognized
universally, like happiness, and other expressions such as those of fear, surprise, and disgust,
which are less well recognized by people in cultures remote from those of the person portraying
2. Forced choice critique – In Ekman and Friesen’s study, and many other judgement studies, participants
were forced to label the expressions using terms the researchers provided (the 6 emotions and their
translations) Might participants, label the faces in different fashion if allowed to use their own words?
Might they label a smile “gratitude” or “reverence” instead of happiness or they might label it with some
concept that does not map onto Western conceptions.
3. Ecological Validity – Perhaps expressions portrayed in Ekman’s studies are not the kinds of expression
that people routinely judge in their daily lives. The expressions are highly stylized and exaggerated, often
made by actors or others who are adept at moving their facial muscles.
Discovering New Facial Displays of Emotions- Contempt has been added to the list, it is expressed by an asymmetrical tightening of the lip corners or
sneer, and conveys a moral disapproval of another.
- Laughter is also another one involving the contraction of muscle surrounding the eyes also appears to be
signal of distinct emotion, namely exhilaration.
- Embarrassment – An appeasement-related emotion, which signals the individual’s lower status, in
particular after transgression, as to bring about social reconciliation.
o Behaviour in embarrassment – Gaze aversion, head movements down (submissiveness) and
o The elements of embarrassment are routinely seen in the appeasement displays of other species.
- Displays of positive emotions – experience of love is expressed through coherent pattern of smiling,
mutual gazing, affiliative hand gestures, open posture, and forward leans.
o Pride = expansive posture, head movements up and down