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Introduction: The Tale I Read on Your Face Depends on Who I Believe You Are: Introducing How Social Factors Might Influence the Decoder's Interpretation of Facial Expression

Introducing How Social Factors Might Influence the Decoder's Interpretation of Facial Expression

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 August 2009

Pierre Philippot
Affiliation:
Professor of Psychology University of Louvain in Belgium
Ursula Hess
Affiliation:
Professor of Psychology University of Quebec at Montreal
Ursula Hess
Affiliation:
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Pierre Philippot
Affiliation:
Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
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Summary

Authors' Note

The writing of this chapter has been facilitated by grants from the “Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique de Belgique” 8.4510.99 and 8.4510.03 and by a grant ARC 96/01-198 from the University of Louvain to the first author, and by a grant from the “Fonds de Formation des Chercheurs et l'Aide la Recherche” to the second author. Correspondence regarding this chapter should be addressed to Pierre Philippot, who is at Faculté de Psychologie, Université de Louvain, place du Cardinal Mercier, 10, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgique. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to Pierre.Philippot@psp.ucl.ac.be.

Introduction

More than three decades ago, the study of emotional facial expression saw a spectacular development (Ekman & Friesen, 1971; Izard, 1972). To date, this impetus does not seem to have lessened. From the beginning, research on emotional facial expression has been grounded in a Neo-Darwinian theoretical framework (Tomkins, 1980). In this framework, facial expressions are considered as innate signals that have evolved phylogenetically to fulfil important adaptive functions. In a social species such as ours, effective coordination among conspecifics is vital. By conveying information about individuals' inner state and behavioral intent, facial expression plays an important role in social coordination.

From this perspective, a wealth of research has demonstrated that, indeed, emotional facial expressions were decoded at a clearly much better than chance level, within and among many cultures (Kupperbusch, Matsumoto, Kooken, Loewinger, Uchida, et al., 1999). This observation supported the notion that emotional facial expressions are foremost an innate signal.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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References

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