Lecture5_(2003) facial expression

Social Psychology
Lecture 5
Nonverbal Communication of Emotion
Facial Expressions of Emotion
Jane Clarbour
Room: PS/BOO7 Email: jc129
• Give an account of Darwin’s theory of the
facial expressions of emotion.
• Describe cross-cultural studies of the
recognition of facial expressions of emotion.
• Demonstrate an understanding of Ekman’s
neuro-cultural model.
• Give an account of neuropsychological
evidence relevant to Ekman’s model.
• Evaluate criticisms of the neuro-cultural
Facial expressions
– Assumptions
• Certain facial expressions of emotion
are innate
• If emotions are expressed similarly
regardless of culture or situation it
suggests that facial expressions are
important guides to emotion
– Alternatively
• Facial expression is contextual social
indicator of behavioral intent
Theoretical conflict
• Universalist
– Same facial movement is associated with
same emotion universally (innate)
• Relativist
– Facial expressions are learned within each
Slide 1: What emotion is this?
Slide 2:
The innate hypothesis
DARWIN (1872) proposed that the facial
expression of emotion evolved as part
of the actions necessary for life:
• Anger:
– Frowning
• to protect eyes in anticipation of attack
• Eyebrows raised
– to open the eyes wide to facilitate
• Mouth opens
– to draw in air quickly to put the body
in a state of readiness
Movements similar to surprise but
more tense
–Raised eyebrows
–Open mouth
• Fear was more problematic for
– Conflict between readiness + protection
• Lip movements are related to expelling
offensive matter from the mouth.
– By-products lip movement include:
• Nose wrinkling movements
• Lines below lower eyelid and raising
lower eyelid
• Cheek raising
Happiness & sadness
• Happiness
– Smiling - raised corners of the mouth
• Sadness
– Upturned inner corners of the
Ekman and Friesen (1976) faces
Neurocultural model (Ekman, 1972)
Ekman suggests both innate and social
learning views are correct
• Facial affect programme
– Firing of facial muscles (neurologically controlled)
• Direct (without need for cognition – Modular)
• Separate programmes for fight or flight
• Partly innate/universal
• Influenced by cultural norms
– Learned (vary by culture)
• Display rules mediate neural
– Display rules prevent activation of facial
affect program
– Display rules prevent triggering of facial
– Reduce the output of the display
– Make the display shorter/substitute
alternative display
Display Rules
• Learned habits about controlling the
appearance of the face (Ekman, 1972)
– Cultural research suggests 6 basic emotions, with
innate facial expression.
– Modifiable by cultural display rules
• Attenuation – (weakening)
• Amplification – (exaggerating)
• Concealment – (masking)
• Substitution – (exchange)
Evidence from Cross-Cultural Studies
EKMAN et al (1972)
• review of studies in literate cultures
• And illiterate cultures
– Shows similarity of labels of expression regardless
of culture
Evidence for neuro-cultural model
Ekman, Friesen & Malstrom (1972)
Showed 25 American and 25 Japanese
Ss a neutral and a stress-inducing film
(a circumcision)
1. Watching film on own (unknowingly
– Both groups displayed same facial
2. Interviewed by member of own culture
– Group differences in facial displays used
when discussing with peers
(Cited in Ekman, Freisen, & Ellsworth, 1972)
Support of Ekman’s neuro-cultural model
Neuropsychological evidence
Deaf and blind studies
• Rinn (1991) Congenitally blind
– when asked to pose basic emotions were judged
as less proficient than sighted Ss (fear, anger,
surprise, disgust)
– No difference for humour
• Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1973) Congenitally deafblind showed same basic repertoire of
spontaneous facial expression as ‘normal’
Neuropsychological evidence
(Rinn, 1991)
• Separate control systems
– Sub-cortical system
Spontaneous facial expression
Sub cortical
Bottom-up ‘reflexive’ expression
– Cortical system
• Mediates voluntary system (display rules)
• Controlled
• Top-down ‘contrived’ expression
Facial paralysis: evidence for 2 systems
• Subcortical system
– Cases of paralysis of volitional facial
• can’t move the paralysed side when told to smile, but
can still smile spontaneously on the paralysed side when
find something funny
• Cortical system
– Cases of paralysis of spontaneous facial
• can control facial movement, but only when told
Criticisms of the neurocultural model (1)
RUSSELL (1991)
• Language used to describe emotion is
not universal
• Identification of facial expressions from
a limited range of emotion categories
overestimates universality
– Obscures subtle (but sig.) differences
between cultures’ emotion descriptors
Criticisms of methodology (Russell, 1994)
• Forced choice method supports neuro-culture
Happy Sad Contempt
Disgust Fear Angry
• Free choice of label for the emotion does not
support universality
– Ekman should have shown photo and let his
subjects choose the emotion they were displaying
Alternative interpretation (Fridlund, 1994)
• Japanese smiled out of politeness to
interviewer (graduate student)
• Japanese custom to smile when
addressed (especially by an authority)
• Less rude for Americans to watch film
when addressed
Behavioural Ecology View (Fridlund,1994)
Alternative model
• Facial displays are simply messages
that display behavioural intent
– Why 6 or 7 ‘basic’ emotions plus ‘blends’?
• Facial displays depend upon social
– Manifestations of social intent
Behavioural ecology reinterpretation
• Anger displays:
– Readiness to attack
• Leaked anger/inhibited anger (ie.Ekman):
– Conflict about anger (I want to attack, but I don’t want to..)
• Contempt face:
– Declaration of superiority (I can’t even bother with you)
• Sad face:
– Take care of me/hold me
• Happy face:
– Readiness to play/ lets be friends
Developmental approach
Differential emotions theory
Cognitive/constructivist approach
Attachment theory
Social referencing
Differential Emotions Theory
(Izard & Malatesta, 1987)
• 9 basic emotions:
– Interest, joy, sadness, surprise, anger,
disgust, contempt, fear & shame
• 3 components of emotion:
– Neural
– Motor-expressive
– Mental
3 components of basic emotions
(Izard & Malatesta, 1987)
• Neural:
– Each is linked to a particular neural
• Motor-expressive:
– Each is expressed in a distinct manner
• Mental:
– Each comprises a specific ‘feeling’
Cognitive/Constructionist Approach I
• Sroufe (1979)
– Affect = undifferentiated states of
– Progressive development into
differentiated emotions
– Cognition acts as central mechanism
Cognitive development classes of emotion
Campos & Barrett (1987)
3 classes of emotion:
1) Primordial: fear and disgust
2) Concurrent goal: anger and sadness
(linked to environmental goals)
3) social: shame, guilt, envy and pride
Attachment theory
• Attachment theorists suggest smiling
and crying are innate behaviours whose
prime function is communication
– Crying signals distress to gain attention
– Smiling signals maintenance of attention
• Not always possible to conceal facial
expression of emotion
• Ekman
– Universality of 6 basic emotions
– Culturally specific displays
• Studies of blind children
– Blind children also show same facial
expression even when no opportunity for
social learning
• Behavioral ecology view
– separates emotion from facial displays
Behavioural Ecology View:
Criticisms of basic emotions
• Innate basic emotions view doesn’t
adequately account for ‘blends’
• No need to account for false/felt displays as
all displays arise out of social interaction
• Facial displays do not have to equate to the
experienced emotion
Questions to think about…
• What evidence is there for universal facial
• What is likely to be more influential:
– Evolutionary, innate function of emotion?
– Cultural, learned basis of display rules?
• Are babies born socially adept?
– Do they learn to smile to gain attention?
– At what age can babies interpret other’s emotion?
• Are there separate modular systems of affect?
• What comes first, cognition or emotion?