- Emotional expressions as social signals of rejection and acceptance: evidence from the Affect Misattribution Paradigm
- Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
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- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Inclusion in social groups is vital to human survival and wellbeing. We propose that emotional expressions signal acceptance versus rejection to observers. Based on this idea, we hypothesized that happy facial expressions prime acceptance, whereas angry expressions prime rejection. In six experiments using the Affect Misattribution Paradigm (Payne, Cheng, Govorun, & Stewart, 2005), we tested to what extent observers associate facial expressions (angry, happy, sad, fearful, and neutral) with three different operationalizations of acceptance and rejection (accept/reject, warm/cold, close/distant). A meta-analysis on these experiments revealed that angry expressions were more strongly associated with rejection than other (negative) expressions, and that happy expressions were more strongly associated with acceptance than other facial expressions. Effects were stable and robust at presentation times of 50 ms and higher and were similar across conceptualizations of acceptance/rejection. We discuss implications for theorizing on the social functions of emotions and the processing of emotional expressions.
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