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Description: Did you watch the recent Golden Globe Awards (January 2020)? The MC was Ricky Gervais, well known for his caustic sharp comedic lines and he did not hold back. Because the audience was full of VERY recognizable people (film, TV, and music mega-stars) cameras cut many times to their reactions to things that Gervais said from the podium, particularly in his opening monologue. Tom Hank’s facial expressions were particularly intense. Search You Tube and you will find several compilations of Gervais’ holding forth and stars reacting. In such situations one might wonder why the stars are, in fact, so expressive, given that they are actors (very good actors) who likely have more control over their facial expressions of emotions than almost anyone else on the planet. Of course, perhaps they wanted us to see how they were feeling about what was being said. Think about how much control you do (or do not) have over your own expressions of emotion and think about situations (at work or in social situations or relationships) where it might be a good idea for you to control how ‘emotionally readable’ you are. What sorts of things do you do or what sorts of things do you try to control in such situations? Once you have your thoughts in order read the article linked below to see some things you likely missed in your considerations.

Source: Your Emotions May Be Easier to Read Than You Realize, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Fulfillment at Any Age, Psychology Today.

Date: January 7, 2020

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Article Link:

So what did you make of the research finding that emotions read by tracking body language are more likely viewed as reflecting negative feelings (even when they actually reflect positive feelings) and that body language become harder rather than easier to ‘read’ when its intensity increases? What might these finding suggest about the expression of emotion through body language? Perhaps that it reflects more important emotions from a social tracking perspective and that it is most important when the emotions that should be “read’ are negative, and therefore potential reflection of danger. If we need or want to control what we are showing other of our emotions, we need to add a ‘poker body’ to our poker face.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might someone (like Tom Hanks) who is very adept at managing his non-verbal expressions of emotion be, at times like the Golden Globe Awards, so easy to read?
  2. How do we sometimes non-verbally express our emotions without using our facial expressions?
  3. How would YOU theoretically account for the patterns of non-verbal emotion reading I mentioned just above and which were discussed in the linked article?

References (Read Further):

Reynolds, R. M., Novotny, E., Lee, J., Roth, D., & Bente, G. (2019). Ambiguous bodies: The role of displayed arousal in emotion [mis] perception. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 43(4), 529-548.

Keltner, D., Tracy, J. L., Sauter, D., & Cowen, A. (2019). What basic emotion theory really says for the twenty-first century study of emotion. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 43(2), 195-201.

Keltner, D., Sauter, D., Tracy, J., & Cowen, A. (2019). Emotional expression: Advances in basic emotion theory. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 1-28.

Friedman, H. S. (2019). Introduction to the Special Issue on Theory in Nonverbal Communication.

Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2003). Universals and cultural differences in recognizing emotions. Current directions in psychological science, 12(5), 159-164.

Keltner, D., & Cordaro, D. T. (2015). Understanding multimodal emotional expressions: Recent advances in basic emotion theory. Emotion Researcher, 1-17.