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Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others

Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others

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CHAPTER

OUTLINE

Nonverbal Communication: The

Unspoken Language of Expressions,

Gazes, Gestures, and Scents



D



O YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU HEARD YOUR OWN voice on your

answering machine or in a video? If you are like most people, you were

surprised: “That doesn’t sound like me,” you probably thought. This com-



mon experience raises an intriguing question: If we don’t even recognize our own

voices, do we really know and understand ourselves as well as we think we do? If we

do, then why are we sometimes surprised by our own feelings or actions? For instance,

have you ever enjoyed a new food more than you thought you would, or enjoyed a

movie you expected to like much less than you anticipated? And have you ever been

surprised to learn that other people view you very differently than the way you view

yourself? At one time or another, most of us have these kinds of experiences, and

when we do, they tell us that our self-knowledge is far from perfect. In some ways, we

know ourselves very well, but in others . . . perhaps not as well as we’d prefer.

We focus in detail on the nature the self and self-understanding later, but here,



Nonverbal Communication: The Basic

Channels

Scent: Another Source of Nonverbal Social

Information

Are Facial Expressions an Especially

Important Source of Information

About Others?

The Facial Feedback Hypothesis: Do We

Show What We Feel and Feel What We

Show?

Deception: Recognizing It Through

Nonverbal Cues, and Its Effects on Social

Relations

EMOTIONS AND SOCIAL PERCEPTION

Cultural Differences in Inferring Others’

Emotions



Attribution: Understanding

the Causes of Others’ Behavior



we want to raise a related but different topic: If we don’t know or understand our-



Theories of Attribution: Frameworks

for Understanding How We Make Sense

of the Social World



selves very accurately, how can we hope to understand or know others? How can we



Attribution: Some Basic Sources of Error



recognize the feelings they are experiencing, understand their motives and goals,



Applications of Attribution Theory:

Insights and Interventions



and—in essence—figure out what kind of person they really are? This is a crucial

process and one we must perform every day because perceiving and understanding

others accurately provides a basic foundation of all social life. For instance, it’s often

important to know when others are being truthful and when they are attempting to

deceive us, to know why they say or do certain things (e.g., did they make a remark

that hurt our feelings on purpose, or by accident), and whether the outward face

they show really reflects their true inner selves. Accomplishing these tasks is crucial

because to the extent we perform them well, we can predict others’ future feelings

and actions accurately; to the extent we remain “clueless” about them, we have very

little chance of achieving that important goal, and very little likelihood of getting

along well with them. So, how do we do it? How do we manage to perform the task

of social perception—the process through which we seek to know and understand

other people? That’s the focus of the present chapter.



SOCIAL LIFE IN A CONNECTED WORLD

Understanding Other People Through

the Internet—Attribution

and Computer-Mediated

Communication



Impression Formation and

Impression Management: Combining

Information About Others

The Beginnings of Research on First

Impressions: Asch’s Research on Central

and Peripheral Traits

How Quickly Are First Impressions

Formed—and Are They Accurate?

Implicit Personality Theories: Schemas

That Shape First Impressions

Impression Management: Tactics

for “Looking Good” to Others

Does Impression Management Work?

Does It Really Boost Impressions

of the People Using It?



In this chapter, we describe the ways in which we attempt to understand other

people, why it is often so difficult to perform this task well, and when we are

most likely to get it right—or wrong! (See Figure 1.) Obtaining van accurate



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Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others



Richard Cline/The New Yorker Collection/Cartoonbank



understanding of others is very important because they play such

a central role in our lives, but in fact, it actually involves many

different tasks. We focus on some of the most important here.

First, we consider the ways in which we learn about others from nonverbal communication—information provided not

by their words, but by their facial expressions, eye contact,

body movements, postures, and even changes in their body

chemistry, which are communicated through tiny amounts

of substances released into the air (e.g., Ekman, 2003; Miller

& Maner, 2010). Next, we examine attribution, the process

through which we attempt to understand the reasons behind

others’ behavior—why they have acted as they have in a given

situation, what goals they are seeking, and what intentions

they have (e.g., Burrus & Roese, 2006). This a crucial process because, as we’ll soon see, the conclusions we reach about

why others behave as they do can strongly influence our reactions to what they say and do. Third, we examine the nature of

impression formation—how we form first impressions of others, and impression management (or self-presentation)—how

we try to ensure that these impressions are favorable ones.



FIGURE 1



Are We Good at Understanding Others?



As shown here, we use many different sources of

information in our efforts to understand others. This

complex task seems effortless for the woman in this cartoon,

but in fact, attaining accurate understanding of others is

often difficult.



social perception

The process through which we

seek to know and understand other

people.



nonverbal communication

Communication between individuals

that does not involve the content

of spoken language. It relies instead

on an unspoken language of facial

expressions, eye contact, and body

language.



attribution

The process through which we seek

to identify the causes of others’

behavior and so gain knowledge of

their stable traits and dispositions.



impression formation

The process through which we form

impressions of others.



impression management

(self-presentation)

Efforts by individuals to produce

favorable first impressions on others.



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Nonverbal Communication:

The Unspoken Language

of Expressions, Gazes,

Gestures, and Scents



When are other people more likely to do favors for you—when

they are in a good mood or a bad one? And when are they more likely to lose their temper

and lash out at you; when they are feeling happy and content, or when they are feeling

tense and irritable? Careful research reveals that often, social actions—our own and those

of other people—are affected by temporary factors or causes. Changing moods, shifting

emotions, fatigue, illness, drugs—even hidden biological processes such as the menstrual

cycle—can all influence the ways in which we think and behave.

Because such temporary factors exert important effects on social behavior and

thought, information about them is both important and useful. Thus, we often try to find

out how others are feeling right now. Sometimes, doing so is quite straightforward—we

ask other people how they are feeling or what kind of mood they are in, and they tell

us. Sometimes, though, other people are unwilling to reveal their inner feelings (e.g.,

DePaulo et al., 2003; Forrest & Feldman, 2000). For example, negotiators often hide

their reactions from their opponents; and salespeople frequently show more liking and

friendliness toward potential customers than they really feel. And on other occasions, they

aren’t sure, themselves, just what these feelings or other reactions are!

In situations like these, and in ones in which we can’t ask others how they are feeling,

we pay careful attention to nonverbal cues provided by changes in their facial expressions, eye

contact, posture, body movements, and other expressive actions. As noted by De Paulo et al.

(2003), such behavior is relatively irrepressible—difficult to control—so that even when others try to conceal their inner feelings from us, these often “leak out” in many ways through

nonverbal cues. The information conveyed by such cues, and our efforts to interpret this

input, are often described by the term nonverbal communication (Ko, Judd, & Blair, 2006),

and we now take a close look at this intriguing aspect of our efforts to understand others.



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Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others



Nonverbal Communication: The Basic Channels

Think for a moment: Do you act differently when you are feeling very happy than when

you are feeling really sad? Most likely, you do. People tend to behave differently when

experiencing different emotional states. But precisely how do differences in your inner

states—your emotions, feelings, and moods—show up in your behavior? This question

relates to the basic channels through which such communication takes place. Research

findings indicate that five of these channels exist: facial expressions, eye contact, body movements, posture, and touching.

More than 2,000 years

ago, the Roman orator Cicero stated: “The face is the image of the soul.” By this he meant

that human feelings and emotions are often reflected in the face and can be read there in

specific expressions. Modern research suggests that Cicero was correct: It is possible to

learn much about others’ current moods and feelings from their facial expressions. In fact,

it appears that five different basic emotions are represented clearly, and from a very early

age, on the human face: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and disgust (Izard, 1991; Rozin,

Lowery, & Ebert, 1994). (Surprise, has also been suggested as a basic emotion reflected

clearly in facial expressions, but recent evidence concerning this suggestion is mixed, so

it may not be as basic or as clearly represented in facial expressions as other emotions;

Reisenzein, Bordgen, Holtbernd, & Matz, 2006).

It’s important to realize that the fact that only five different emotions are represented

on our faces does not imply that human beings can show only a small number of facial

expressions. On the contrary, emotions occur in many combinations (e.g., joy together

with sorrow, fear combined with anger) and each of these reactions can vary greatly in

strength. Thus, while there may be only a small number of basic themes in facial expressions, the number of variations on these themes is immense (see Figure 2).

Now for another important question: Are facial expressions universal? In other

words, if you traveled to a remote part of the world and visited a group of people who

had never before met an outsider, would their facial expressions in various situations

resemble your own? Would they smile in reaction to events that made them happy, frown

when exposed to conditions that made then angry, and so on? Furthermore, would you



Courtesy of Robert A. Baron



FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AS CLUES TO OTHERS’ EMOTIONS



FIGURE 2



Facial Expressions: The Range Is Huge



Although only five basic emotions are represented in distinct facial expressions that can be recognized across various cultures,

these emotions can occur in many combinations and be shown to varying degrees. The result? The number of unique facial

expressions any one person can show is truly immense.



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Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others



Percent Showing Each Emotion



be able to recognize these distinct expressions as readily as the ones shown by people

belonging to your own culture? Early research on this question seemed to suggest that

facial expressions are universal in both respects (e.g., Ekman & Friesen, 1975) and with

few exceptions, these results have been confirmed in more recent research (Effenbin &

Ambady, 2002). In fact, it has been found that certain facial expressions—smiles, frowns,

and other signs of sadness) occur, and are recognized as representing basic underlying

emotions (e.g., happiness, anger, sadness) in many different cultures (e.g., Shaver, Murdaya, & Fraley, 2001). While the overall pattern of findings is not entirely consistent

(e.g., Russell, 1994; Carroll & Russell, 1996), it seems reasonable to conclude that some

facial expressions provide clear signals of underlying emotional states, and are recognized

as doing so all over the world. Cultural differences certainly do exist with respect to the

precise meaning of facial expressions, but unlike spoken languages, they do not seem to

require much in the way of translation.

While many different studies provide clear evidence for these conclusions, research

conducted with athletes competing in the Olympics are especially interesting in this

respect. When photos of the faces of these athletic stars are taken at various times (on

winning or losing their matches, when receiving their medals, while posing for photographers), clear evidence of recognizable facial expressions—ones reflecting the athletes’

underlying emotional states—is obtained (Matsumoto & Willingham, 2006). For instance,

almost all gold medal winners smile clearly and openly when they win their matches, and

also when they receive their medals. Most bronze medalists, too, smile—although not as

high a percentage as among gold medal winners. In contrast, very few silver medal winners smile. Why does this difference between bronze and silver medal winners exist? It

is because the bronze medal winners are happy to have won any medal—and their facial

expressions show this. In contrast, silver medalists torture

themselves with (counterfactual) thoughts about how they

Most gold and bronze

could have received “the gold” if only . . . (see Figure 3).

winners smile but

Additional findings indicate that when posing for

few show sadness

photographers, gold and bronze medal winners show true

(real) smiles; silver medal winners, in contrast, show the

No silver medal

kind of “social smiling” everyone can show when a smile is

winners smile, but

100

required—but does not reflect underlying happiness. These

many show sadness

87

findings, and those of many other studies, indicate that oth80

ers’ facial expressions are often a very useful guide to their

feelings. Thus, it is not at all surprising that we rely on such

61

60

information as a basis for forming accurate perceptions of

43

others—or at least, perceptions of how they are feeling

40

right now. Interestingly—and as you might expect—when

people know each other very well (e.g., they are very close

Smiles

20

friends), they are better at “reading” each other’s nonverbal

4

Sadness

cues—especially subtle ones—than when they are strang0

0

0

ers or casual acquaintances (Zhang & Parmley, 2011). So

Gold

Bronze

Silver

clearly, becoming familiar with another person’s range and

Medal Received

form of facial expression can be helpful in terms of knowing

what they are really feeling.

FIGURE 3 Facial Expressions Among Gold, Silver,

and Bronze Medal Olympic Medal Winners

As shown here, gold medal winners and bronze medal winners

smiled frequently (at the conclusion of their matches and

when receiving their medals). In contrast, silver medal winners

did not smile; they showed sadness instead. These findings

reflect the underlying emotions of these athletes: gold and

bronze medal winners are happy with their results; silver

medal winners, in contrast, are unhappy because they imagine

“getting the gold.” (Source: Based on data from Matsumoto &

Willingham, 2006).



84



GAZES AND STARES: EYE CONTACT AS A NONVERBAL

CUE Have you ever had a conversation with someone



wearing vary dark or mirrored sunglasses? If so, you realize

that this can be an uncomfortable situation. Since you can’t

see the other person’s eyes, you are uncertain about how he

or she is reacting. Taking note of the importance of cues

provided by others’ eyes, ancient poets often described the



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Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others



eyes as “windows to the soul.” In one important sense, they were correct: We do often

learn much about others’ feelings from their eyes. For example, we interpret a high level

of gazing from another as a sign of liking or friendliness (Kleinke, 1986). In contrast, if

others avoid eye contact with us, we may conclude that they are unfriendly, don’t like

us, or are simply shy.

While a high level of eye contact with others is usually interpreted as a sign

of liking or positive feelings, there is one exception to this general rule. If another

person gazes at us continuously and maintains such contact regardless of what we

do, he or she can be said to be staring. A stare is often interpreted as a sign of anger

or hostility—as in cold stare—and most people find this particular nonverbal cue

disturbing (Ellsworth & Carlsmith, 1973). In fact, we may quickly terminate social

interaction with someone who stares at us and may even leave the scene (Greenbaum

& Rosenfield, 1978). This is one reason why experts on “road rage”—highly aggressive driving by motorists, sometimes followed by actual assaults—recommend that

drivers avoid eye contact with people who are disobeying traffic laws and rules of the

road (e.g., Bushman, 1998). Apparently, such people, who are already in a highly excitable state, interpret anything approaching a stare from another driver as an aggressive

act, and react accordingly.

BODY LANGUAGE: GESTURES, POSTURE, AND MOVEMENTS



Try this simple dem-



onstration for yourself:

First, remember some incident that made you angry—the angrier the better. Think

about it for a minute.

Now, try to remember another incident, one that made you feel sad—again, the

sadder the better.

Compare your behavior in the two contexts. Did you change your posture or move

your hands, arms, or legs as your thoughts shifted from the first event to the second?

There is a good chance that you did, for our current moods or emotions are often

reflected in the position, posture, and movement of our bodies. Together, such nonverbal behaviors are termed body language, and they, too, can provide useful information

about others.

First, body language often reveals others’ emotional states. Large numbers of movements—especially ones in which one part of the body does something to another part

(touching, rubbing, scratching)—suggest emotional arousal. The greater the frequency

of such behavior, the higher the level of arousal or nervousness.

Larger patterns of movements, involving the whole body, can also be informative.

Such phrases as “she adopted a threatening posture,” and “he greeted her with open arms”

suggest that different body orientations or postures indicate contrasting emotional states.

In fact, research by Aronoff, Woike, and Hyman (1992) confirms this possibility. These

researchers first identified two groups of characters in classical ballet: ones who played

a dangerous or threatening role (e.g., Macbeth, the Angel of Death, Lizzie Borden) and

ones who played warm, sympathetic roles ( Juliet, Romeo). Then they examined examples

of dancing by these characters in actual ballets to see if they adopted different kinds of

postures. Aronoff and his colleagues predicted that the dangerous, threatening characters

would show more diagonal or angular postures, whereas the warm, sympathetic characters would show more rounded postures, and results strongly confirmed this hypothesis.

These and related findings indicate that large-scale body movements or postures can

sometimes provide important information about others’ emotions, and even about their

apparent traits.

More specific information about others’ feelings is often provided by gestures. These

fall into several categories, but perhaps the most important are emblems—body movements carrying specific meanings in a given culture. Do you recognize the gestures shown



staring

A form of eye contact in which one

person continues to gaze steadily

at another regardless of what the

recipient does.



body language

Cues provided by the position,

posture, and movement of others’

bodies or body parts.



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Photo’s courtesy of Robert A. Baron



FIGURE 4



Gestures: One Form of Nonverbal Communication



Do you recognize the gestures shown here? Can you tell what they mean? In the United States and other Western cultures, each of

these gestures has a clear meaning. However, they might well have no meaning or entirely different meanings, in other cultures.



in Figure 4? In the United States and several other countries, these movements have

clear and definite meanings. However, in other cultures, they might have no meaning,

or even a different meaning. For this reason, it is wise to be careful about using gestures

while traveling in cultures different from your own: you may offend the people around

you without meaning to do so!

Suppose that during a brief conversation with

another person, he or she touched you briefly. How would you react? What information

would this behavior convey? The answer to both questions is, it depends. And what it

depends on is several factors relating to who does the touching (a friend, a stranger, a

member of your own or the other gender); the nature of this physical contact (brief or

prolonged, gentle or rough, what part of the body is touched); and the context in which

the touching takes place (a business or social setting, a doctor’s office). Depending on

such factors, touch can suggest affection, sexual interest, dominance, caring, or even

aggression. Despite such complexities, existing evidence indicates that when touching is

considered appropriate, it often produces positive reactions in the person being touched

(e.g., Alagna, Whitcher, & Fisher, 1979; Levav & Argo, 2010). But remember, it must

be viewed as appropriate to produce such reactions!

One acceptable way in which people in many different cultures touch strangers is

through handshaking. “Pop psychology” and even books on etiquette (e.g., Vanderbilt,

1957) suggest that handshakes reveal much about other people—for instance, their personalities—and that a firm handshake is a good way to make a favorable first impression

on others. Are such observations true? Is this form of nonverbal communication actually

revealing? Research findings (e.g., Chaplin, Phillips, Brown, Clanton, & Stein, 2000) suggest that it is. The firmer, longer, and more vigorous others’ handshakes are, the higher

we tend to rate them in terms of extraversion and openness to experience, and the more

favorable our first impressions of them tend to be.

Other forms of touching, too, can sometimes be appropriate. For instance, Levav and

Argo (2010) found that a light, comforting pat on the arm can induce feelings of security

among both women and men—but only if the touching is performed by a woman. Such

feelings of security, in turn, influence actual behavior: individuals touched on the shoulder

by a female experimenter actually showed greater risk taking in an investment task than

those not touched, or ones who were touched only through handshakes.

In sum, touching can serve as another source of nonverbal communication, and

when it is appropriate (as, for example, in handshakes in cultures that view this as an

appropriate means of greeting others), it can induce positive reactions. If it is viewed as

inappropriate, however, it can encourage negative perceptions of the person doing the

touching.



TOUCHING: WHAT DOES IT CONVEY?



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Scent: Another Source of Nonverbal

Social Information

10



9.8



9.5

Testosterone Level



Although facial expressions, body movements, gestures, eye contact,

and touching are basic and important sources of nonverbal information,

they are not the only ones. Much can also be learned from what are

termed paralinguistic cues—changes in the tone or inflection of others’

voices (quite apart from the meaning of their words). And recent research

indicates that even subtle cues relating to others’ body chemistry can

be revealing. For instance, research by Miller and Maner (2010) indicates that changes in women’s internal chemistry occurring during the

menstrual cycle can be transmitted to others (especially, perhaps, men)

through subtle olfactory cues—changes in the aromas emitted by their

bodies.

In this research, a large number of women were asked to wear clean

T-shirts several nights during the month—either right around the time

they were ovulating (days 13–15 of their menstrual cycles), and when

ovulation had passed (days 20–22). The T-shirts were then sealed in plastic bags and presented to men who opened the bags slightly and smelled

the shirts. The men did not know anything about the women involved

or their menstrual cycles, but when their testosterone was measured,

clear results emerged: Men who smelled the T-shirts worn by ovulating

women showed higher testosterone levels than those who sniffed the

T-shirts worn by nonovulating women, or who sniffed clean T-shirts

not worn by anyone; see Figure 5). Interestingly, the men couldn’t report

detecting differences in the scents of the shirts worn during ovulation and

after it was over, but their testosterone levels still differed. Overall, these

findings indicate that shifts in body chemistry, too, can provide nonverbal cues about other people—at least in the case of women and their

menstrual cycle. So truly, we do have many sources of information about

other people’ internal states, and not all of it is revealed by facial expressions, eye contact, or other basic channels of nonverbal communication.



Men who sniff

T-shirts worn by

ovulating women

show the highest

levels of testosterone



9

8.7

8.5



8.5



8



7.5

Ovulating



Not Ovulating



Control



Experimental Conditon



FIGURE 5 Body Scent as a Subtle

Nonverbal Cue

Men’s own testosterone was higher when they

sniffed T-shirts worn by ovulating women than

when they sniffed T-shirts worn by women who

were not longer ovulating, or clean T-shirts

not worn by anyone. These findings indicate

that changes in body chemistry, reflected in

subtle changes in body odor, can serve as an

informational nonverbal cue. (Source: Based on

data from Miller & Maner, 2010).



Are Facial Expressions an Especially

Important Source of Information About Others?

Having pointed out that there are many sources of nonverbal information about others,

we next want to emphasize that although this is certainly true, growing evidence suggests

that facial expressions are especially important in this respect (e.g., Tsao & Livingstone,

2008). In a sense, this is not surprising because we direct lots of attention to others’ faces

as we interact with them. In support of this basic fact, several different research findings

combine to suggest that facial expressions are indeed a uniquely crucial source of information about others.

First, it is almost impossible to ignore such information. For instance, many studies

indicate that having an opportunity to view visual stimuli on one occasion often reduces

attention to these stimuli on subsequent occasions. This is not true for facial expressions,

however. Even after viewing them once, they still grip our attention the next time they are

presented (e.g., Blagrove & Watson, 2010). Moreover, this is especially true for negative

facial expressions. Even if such expressions are seen on one occasion, they are still easier

to notice than other stimuli on later occasions. For example, individuals can spot an angry

face in an array of faces more quickly than neutral or smiling faces.

Second, to the extent a person’s neutral facial expression resembles a particular emotional expression, they are seen as showing this emotion, even when in fact they are not

experiencing any strong emotion (Zebrowitz, Kikuchi, & Fellous, 2007, in press). Male



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faces, for example, are seen as resembling angry expressions to a greater extent than

female faces, and black and Korean faces are seen as resembling expressions of happiness

or surprise to a greater extent than white faces, even when the people whose faces shown

are not actually experiencing any emotion. In short, we tend to perceive more in others’

faces than is really there, interpreting the basic appearance of their faces as suggestive of

specific emotions, even if these aren’t really present. This, too, suggests that facial expressions are an especially important source of nonverbal information—although, in fact, the

conclusions we reach in this respect may be far from accurate.

Finally and perhaps most interesting, facial expressions not only serve as a source of

information for observers, who use them to understand what the people showing such

expressions are feeling, but also play a role in generating such emotions or feelings. In

other words, as William James (1894), one of the first prominent American psychologists,

suggested, facial expressions are not only external signs of internal states, they can also

trigger or influence internal emotional experiences. The view that facial expressions can

actually trigger emotions is known as the facial feedback hypothesis, and is so interesting

that we now consider it closely.



The Facial Feedback Hypothesis: Do We Show What

We Feel and Feel What We Show?

In essence, the facial feedback hypothesis (Laird, 1984) suggests that there is a close link

between the facial expressions we show and our internal feelings, and that this relationship works both ways: yes, the expressions we show reflect our internal feelings or emotions, but in addition, these expressions also feed back into our brains and influence our

subjective experiences of emotion. In short, we don’t only show what we feel inside on

our faces—we also sometimes feel, inside, what we show!

Many studies offer support for this view. For instance, McCanne and Anderson

(1987) asked female participants to imagine positive and negative events (e.g., “You

inherit a million dollars,” “You lose a really close friendship”). While imagining these

events, they were told to either enhance or suppress tension in certain facial muscles. One

of these muscles is active when we smile or view happy scenes. The other is active when

we frown or view unhappy scenes. Measurements of electrical activity of both muscles

indicated that after a few practice trials, most people could carry out this task quite successfully. They could enhance or suppress muscle tension when told to do so, and could

do this without any visible change in their facial expressions.

After imagining each scene, participants rated their emotional experiences in terms of

enjoyment or distress. If the facial feedback hypothesis is correct, these ratings should be

affected by participants’ efforts to enhance or suppress muscle tension. If they enhanced

activity in muscles associated with smiling, they would report more enjoyment of the

positive events. If they suppressed such activity, they would report less enjoyment. Results

offered clear support for these predictions. Participants reported less enjoyment of the

positive events when they suppressed activity in the appropriate muscle and a slight

tendency to report less distress to the negative events when they suppressed the muscle

involved in frowning. In addition—and of special interest—participants also reported

less ability to imagine and experience scenes of both types when suppressing activity in

their facial muscles.

Convincing as these findings are, there is an important problem in interpreting them:

perhaps instructions to tense or inhibit certain muscles could have influenced participants’

reports of their own emotional experiences. To get around such problems, more recent

research (Davis, Senghas, Brandt, & Ochsner, 2010) has used a very ingenious solution:

They compared the emotional reactions to positive and negative video clips of two groups

of people who received injections of anti-wrinkle drugs. One group received injections of

Botox, a drug that paralyzes muscles involved in facial expressions, while another received

Restylane, a drug that simply fills in wrinkles without paralyzing facial muscles. The



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Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others



Participants whose facial muscles

were paralyzed report weaker

emotional reactions to film clips

than those whose facial muscles

were not paralyzed

0.5

0.42

0.4

0.3



0.25



0.2



0.15

Botox



0.1



Felicia Martinez/PhotoEdit



Emotional Responses



injections were given by a licensed

physician, and participants in

both groups rated how they felt

after viewing each video clip on a

scale of very negative to very positive. They did this twice—8 days

before the injections, and again,

14–24 days after receiving them.

If the facial feedback hypothesis

is correct, then people receiving

Botox should report weaker emotional reactions to the video clips.

That is, they should report weaker

negative feelings to the negative

clips, and weaker positive feelings

to the positive clips. In fact, that’s

precisely what occurred (see Figure 6). These findings suggest that

feedback from our facial muscles

does indeed play a role in shaping

our emotional experiences. So it

does seem to be the case that what

we show on our faces influences

what we experience “inside,” and

the words of one old song that

suggests that we “Let a smile be

our umbrella on a rainy, rainy

day” appears to contain a sizeable

grain of truth.



Restylane

0

–0.1

–0.1

–0.2

Negative Clips Positive Clips

Experimental Condition



FIGURE 6



Evidence for the Facial Feedback Hypothesis



Participants who received injections of Botox, which paralyzes facial muscles, reported less

negative reactions to negative film clips and less positive reactions to mildly positive film

clips, than participants who received Restylane, a drug that does not paralyze muscles.



Deception: Recognizing It Through Nonverbal Cues,

and Its Effects on Social Relations

Be honest: how often do you tell lies? This includes very small “white lies” designed

to avoid hurting others’ feelings or accomplish other positive social purposes to ones

designed to get us out of trouble or further our own goals (“I’m sorry, Professor—I missed

the exam because of an unexpected death in my family . . .”). In fact, research findings

indicate that most people tell at least one lie every day (DePaulo & Kashy, 1998) and

use deception in almost 20 percent of their social interactions. Experiments confirming

these findings indicate that a majority of strangers lie to each other at least once during a

brief first encounter (Feldman, Forrest, & Happ, 2002; Tyler & Feldman, 2004). Why do

people lie? As we’ve already suggested, for many reasons: to avoid hurting others’ feelings,

to conceal their real feelings or reactions, to avoid punishment for misdeeds. In short,

lying is an all-too-common part of social life. This fact raises two important questions:

(1) How good are we at recognizing deception by others? (2) How can we do a better job

at this task? The answer to the first question is somewhat discouraging. In general, we

do only a little better than chance in determining whether others are lying or telling the

truth (e.g., Ekman, 2001; Malone & DePaulo, 2001). There are many reasons why this

so, including the fact that we tend to perceive others as truthful and so don’t search for

clues to deception (Ekman, 2001); our desire to be polite, which makes us reluctant to

discover or report deception by others; and our lack of attention to nonverbal cues that

might reveal deception (e.g., Etcoff, Ekman, Magee, & Frank, 2000). Recently, another

explanation—and a very compelling one—has been added to this list: we tend to assume

that if people are truthful in one situation or context, they will be truthful in others, and



89



www.downloadslide.net

Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others



Participants whose facial muscles

were paralyzed report weaker

emotional reactions to film clips

than those whose facial muscles

were not paralyzed

0.5

0.42

0.4

0.3



0.25



0.2



0.15

Botox



0.1



Restylane

0

–0.1

–0.1

–0.2

Negative Clips Positive Clips

Experimental Condition



FIGURE 6



Evidence for the Facial Feedback Hypothesis



Participants who received injections of Botox, which paralyzes facial muscles, reported less

negative reactions to negative film clips and less positive reactions to mildly positive film

clips, than participants who received Restylane, a drug that does not paralyze muscles.



Deception: Recognizing It Through Nonverbal Cues,

and Its Effects on Social Relations

Be honest: how often do you tell lies? This includes very small “white lies” designed

to avoid hurting others’ feelings or accomplish other positive social purposes to ones

designed to get us out of trouble or further our own goals (“I’m sorry, Professor—I missed

the exam because of an unexpected death in my family . . .”). In fact, research findings

indicate that most people tell at least one lie every day (DePaulo & Kashy, 1998) and

use deception in almost 20 percent of their social interactions. Experiments confirming

these findings indicate that a majority of strangers lie to each other at least once during a

brief first encounter (Feldman, Forrest, & Happ, 2002; Tyler & Feldman, 2004). Why do

people lie? As we’ve already suggested, for many reasons: to avoid hurting others’ feelings,

to conceal their real feelings or reactions, to avoid punishment for misdeeds. In short,

lying is an all-too-common part of social life. This fact raises two important questions:

(1) How good are we at recognizing deception by others? (2) How can we do a better job

at this task? The answer to the first question is somewhat discouraging. In general, we

do only a little better than chance in determining whether others are lying or telling the

truth (e.g., Ekman, 2001; Malone & DePaulo, 2001). There are many reasons why this

so, including the fact that we tend to perceive others as truthful and so don’t search for

clues to deception (Ekman, 2001); our desire to be polite, which makes us reluctant to

discover or report deception by others; and our lack of attention to nonverbal cues that

might reveal deception (e.g., Etcoff, Ekman, Magee, & Frank, 2000). Recently, another

explanation—and a very compelling one—has been added to this list: we tend to assume

that if people are truthful in one situation or context, they will be truthful in others, and



90



Felicia Martinez/PhotoEdit



Emotional Responses



injections were given by a licensed

physician, and participants in

both groups rated how they felt

after viewing each video clip on a

scale of very negative to very positive. They did this twice—8 days

before the injections, and again,

14–24 days after receiving them.

If the facial feedback hypothesis

is correct, then people receiving

Botox should report weaker emotional reactions to the video clips.

That is, they should report weaker

negative feelings to the negative

clips, and weaker positive feelings

to the positive clips. In fact, that’s

precisely what occurred (see Figure 6). These findings suggest that

feedback from our facial muscles

does indeed play a role in shaping

our emotional experiences. So it

does seem to be the case that what

we show on our faces influences

what we experience “inside,” and

the words of one old song that

suggests that we “Let a smile be

our umbrella on a rainy, rainy

day” appears to contain a sizeable

grain of truth.



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Social Perception: Perceiving and Understanding Others



this can prevent us from realizing that they might indeed lie on some occasions (e.g.,

O’Sullivan, 2003). We return to this possibility in more detail in our later discussion of

attribution.

Given the fact that nearly everyone engages in deception at least occasionally, how

can we recognize such actions? The answer seems to involve careful attention to both

nonverbal and verbal cues that can reveal the fact that others are trying to deceive us.

With respect to nonverbal cues, the following information has been found to be very

helpful (e.g., DePaulo et al., 2003):

1. Microexpressions: These are fleeting facial expressions lasting only a few tenths of

a second. Such reactions appear on the face very quickly after an emotion-provoking

event and are difficult to suppress. As a result, they can be very revealing about others’ true feelings or emotions.

2. Interchannel discrepancies: A second nonverbal cue revealing of deception is

known as interchannel discrepancies. (The term channel refers to type of nonverbal

cues; for instance, facial expressions are one channel, body movements are another.)

These are inconsistencies between nonverbal cues from different basic channels.

These result from the fact that people who are lying often find it difficult to control

all these channels at once. For instance, they may manage their facial expressions

well, but may have difficulty looking you in the eye as they tell their lie.

3. Eye contact: Efforts at deception are often revealed by certain aspects of eye contact.

People who are lying often blink more often and show pupils that are more dilated

than people who are telling the truth. They may also show an unusually low level of

eye contact or—surprisingly—an unusually high one as they attempt to fake being

honest by looking others right in the eye.

4. Exaggerated facial expressions: Finally, people who are lying sometimes show

exaggerated facial expressions. They may smile more—or more broadly—than usual

or may show greater sorrow than is typical in a given situation. A prime example:

someone says no to a request you’ve made and then shows exaggerated regret. This

is a good sign that the reasons the person has supplied for saying “no” may not be

true.



microexpressions

Fleeting facial expressions lasting

only a few tenths of a second.



linguistic style

Aspects of speech apart from the

meaning of the words employed.



In addition to these nonverbal cues, other signs of deception are sometimes present

in nonverbal aspects of what people actually say, or in the words they choose. When

people are lying, the pitch of their voices often rises—especially when they are highly

motivated to lie. Similarly, they often take longer to begin—to respond to a question or

describe events. And they may show a greater tendency to start sentences, stop them, and

begin again. In other words, certain aspects of people’s linguistic style can be revealing

of deception.

In sum, through careful attention to nonverbal cues and to various aspects of the way

people speak (e.g., the pitch of their voices), we can often tell when others are lying—or

merely trying to hide their feelings from us. Success in detecting deception is far from

certain; some people are very skillful liars. But if you pay careful attention to the cues

described above, you will make their task of “pulling the wool over your eyes” much

more difficult, and may become as successful at this task as a group of people identified

by Paul Ekman—a leading expert on facial expressions—who can reliably distinguish

lies from the truth more than 80 percent of the time (Coniff, 2004). (These people, by

the way, did not belong to a particular profession—they were simply a heterogeneous

group of individuals who were exceptionally good at detecting deception.) Is this a useful

skill? Absolutely; imagine the benefits if we could hire—or train—such people to work

at airports or other locations, identifying terrorists. Clearly, then, understanding how we

can learn to recognize deception has important implications not just for individuals, but

also for society as a whole.



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