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According to participant judgments, then, asymmetrical body posture groups together three emotions that are all related to Goal Obstruction. Again, according to Ortony et al. So, whereas asymmetrical emotional states are reactions to Goal Obstruction, the collapsed states signal Resignation.

That is, we propose that two emotional states with Negative valence are distinguished by asymmetrical vs. The experiment showed that complex emotional displays are comprised of features which are associated with emotional states, contributing to the overall interpretation of the display. For example, a display can be judged Dominant, and by adding raised lip corners and shoulders back, it is Happy ecstatic Dominance. Frustrated is distinguished from Sad mainly by the position of the body—asymmetrical for Frustrated and torso forward for Sad, and so forth.

In real life, intense emotional displays can be extremely complex, reflecting several emotional responses at the same time. These responses depend on the personality of the individual, expectations, the importance and relevance of the event prompting the display, and other factors [ 84 ]. For this reason, victory and defeat displays, even if they share the context of high stakes competitions, can each vary considerably.

Men and the Language of Emotions

Through experiments like the one we report here, we find generalizations across interpretations of participants that allow us to distill from a display those features which transmit a meaning related to an emotion or dimension. In addition to supporting a compositional view of the expression of emotions, our results can also address some of the puzzling findings of previous studies. Crucially, the researchers assumed a link between emotional Valence and what they term situational Valence.

For them, winning a point in a tennis match has Positive situational valence, and should be associated with Positive emotions, while losing a point has Negative situational valence, and should be associated with Negative emotions.

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Participants were not able to judge Valence accurately from faces with bodies or just faces [ 29 ], and the authors reasoned that facial expressions are ambiguous. Even when participants were explicitly told that winners usually displayed an open mouth, participants still failed at differentiating Positive from Negative faces.

Our study takes a very different approach. We assumed that winning and losing athletes experience a variety of complex emotions, and our results bear this out. We find that large blocks of features cluster together with judgements of Dominance and Submissiveness, respectively, and understand from this result that Dominance and Submission rather than Valence are the most important dimensions in this context. Within these broad categories, features of facial expression, are not ambiguous, but rather, significantly correlate with nuances of emotion meaning. For example, a Dominant display can have Positive valence Happy, Proud with lip corners up, and Negative valence Angry with lip corners down see Fig 3.

In addition, the detailed results of our study show that testing for judgements about a wide range of emotions provides novel insight into the complexity of the expression and interpretation of emotion.

Participants rated each emotion along several emotion and affective scales, as described in the method section. This was true, however, only for the abovementioned emotions as they are antonyms. For the other emotions e.

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Angry the rating scale ranged from 0, not Angry at all, to , high level of anger. It has been suggested that females perceive and express emotions in different ways than men. However, recent studies found that those differences are very small [ 85 ] or not significant at all [ 38 , 39 ]. Finally, we expect our results to be highly context dependent. As we examined only emotions in the context of victory and defeat, our results do not make predictions about emotions in everyday interactions. Overall, we find that different components of displays of intense emotion by athletes are reliably matched to emotional dimensions or states.

First, our findings regarding the primacy and salience of Dominance and Submission are sound from an evolutionary point of view. The two dimensions are characterized by complex configurations of features—open body posture and enhanced facial features that signal Dominance, and the prostrated posture with occluded or diminished face that signal Submissiveness.

These highly salient, complex displays clearly communicate power or surrender to others in the context of high-stakes, physical confrontation.

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The secret language of feelings: a rational approach to mastering emotions

Additional components of emotional displays add other ecologically relevant distinctions, resulting in diverse emotional interpretations, such as intense Pride, Anger, or Resignation. Regarding the main point of our investigation, our findings give credence to a compositional model of emotion expression by the body, in which complex displays are built up of features that contribute their emotional meanings to the whole, and which distinguish the interpretation of one complex from that of another.

In terms of compositionality, this line of research demonstrates a nontrivial property in common with language. In both cases, we see that humans display and interpret complex communicative displays in terms of their component parts. However, there are also instructive differences. First, we believe that the emotional signals are far more general and much more context-dependent than the units of language.

This implies that their manifestations, combinations, and interpretations may differ widely in different contexts. In fact, a crucial difference between emotional displays and language is the role of context. We expect that the same features in emotional displays can be interpreted in quite different ways depending on the context. This is one of the strengths of language, and the comparison deserves to be tested rigorously. Furthermore, the combination and recombination of features are governed by the nature and composition of human emotion, reflecting responses to our ecological environment, and constrained by it.

In contrast, language allows us to imagine and communicate thoughts and ideas that are not of the here and now and is constrained by rules that are quite specific to the domain and allow for the expression of an infinite number of utterances about anything we can conceive of. If linguistic and emotional expressions share the key feature of compositionality, the door is now open to the investigation of other similarities and differences between these two communicative domains. Some similarities and differences between the domains have been revealed here, paving the way, we hope, for future research that will explore and rigorously compare the two.

Our analysis makes additional specific predictions for future research. In future research, we intend to use embodied agents to test the prediction that the features in question distinguish emotional states by manipulating targeted features and groups of features see Sandler [ 35 ] for examples of embodied agents displaying intense emotions. More than one feature usually correlates with an emotional state in judgements of photographs of real athletes, e.

Since our results regards natural stimuli with complex displays, we are unable to tell if these features contribute information independently.

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For that, future research will use embodied agents whose expressions and postures can be selectively manipulated. For example, we will present a Dominant face and body posture, changing only one feature e.

We expect participants to judge the character displaying Dominant face and body features plus body asymmetry as Angrier than the same character with symmetrical body. Adding lip corners down to a Dominant posture will also determine a shift of judgments from Dominant to Angry. Mixed displays e.

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Finally, as noted, we expect that the expression of emotion is highly context dependent. Another direction for future research is to examine other contexts, perhaps less extreme, using similar methodology and coding categories to those laid out here, with the aim of fully exploring the effect of context on the interpretation of emotion and its components.

All in all, we hope that our results open the door to clear new directions of research into the compositionality of human expression. The p values were calculated by likelihood ratio tests, comparing the full lmer model against the model without the effect. Tests were conducted using the function anova in package lmer in R. Principal Investigator, Wendy Sandler. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract Emotions are signaled by complex arrays of face and body actions.

Introduction There are two main opposing scientific approaches to the relation between the expression of an emotion and its interpretation: discrete—here called holistic —and compositional. Holistic and compositional approaches to the study of emotion According to the holistic approach, a small number of emotions considered to be basic are hard-wired genetically determined in the brain, and are always linked to specific facial expressions, both in production and in recognition [ 1 ].

Emotion and the body The holistic emotion approach that has been a prevalent scientific paradigm for several decades traditionally focused primarily on facial expression, and the expressive information in body movements has been under-investigated in the field of emotion research.

Method Participants We recruited 84 right handed participants 18 to 43 years, mean age Stimuli Many previous studies have shown that acted emotions are perceived differently than real emotions [ 40 — 42 ]. Download: PPT. Fig 2.

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Example of the experimental procedure, with sample picture of an athlete, and a scale for response, in this case, between very Happy and very Sad. Methods of data analysis All analyses were run in R 3. Results Participants consistently rated pictures of athletes who had just won with significantly different scores than athletes who had just lost. Table 1. Face features Face features of Dominance and Submissiveness. Smaller face clusters and individual features.

Other face features convey nuances of emotion. Raised lip corners AU12 —in yellow in Table 1 associated with three emotional states: Happy, Proud and Frustrated; Lip corners drawn down AU15 —in grey found the Negative emotions: Angry, Disappointed, Frustrated and Sad; Lip funneler AU22 —orange color , lips protruded outward, characterizes only Dominant, distinguishing this state from all other emotional states.

Raised inner brows AU 1—inner eyebrows raised independently of the outer brows, colored purple in Table 1 , characterizes Submissive only, distinguishing it from all other emotional states, whether in the Submissiveness or the Dominance dimension. Body cues We found a specific cluster of bodily signals to be associated with Dominant emotional states. Discussion The broadest distinction, i. Dominance Many face and body features characterize the Dominance display, indicating a good deal of redundancy.