Facial Expressions



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Facial Expressions


Some interesting and valuable research on facial expressions is available for businesses. The major difference found in facial expressions is the degree of expressiveness. Findings and implications are discussed briefly:i


  1. Finding: Females express basic emotions more accurately than males.

Implication: When dealing with male employees, managers must rely on other verbal and nonverbal cues in attempting to determine emotional states.

  1. Finding: Unpleasant emotions are less accurately perceived than pleasant ones.

Happiness is one of the most accurately perceived emotions followed by (in order of accuracy) sadness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise.

Implication: Managers may receive false impressions concerning employee job satisfaction. Fear may be perceived as disgust.

  1. Finding: Different parts of the face are more expressive for particular types of emotions:

  • * happiness is more associated with cheeks/mouth and eyelid areas;

  • * sadness is more identifiable from the eyelid area;

  • * fear is best observed from the eyelid area; and

  • * surprise is best perceived from the brow/forehead, eyelid, and cheek/mouth area.

Implication: Employers may sense that a new employee is experiencing a negative emotion that is affecting the work environment and needs to discover the root cause. By attending to these facial areas, employers may be more accurate in perceiving the emotional state of their employees.

  1. Finding: Facial expressions possess many universal characteristics; however, cultural differences do occur. Each culture has unique rules dictating what facial expressions should and should not be shown and what objects or events trigger an expression. Japanese employees restrain negative emotions like sadness and anger while African Americans show these emotions very clearly.

Implication: Smiling in response to a smile from someone is expected in the United States; however, in Israel and other countries, smiling in response to a smile from a stranger is not socially expected and often not observed. Employees from such cultures who are working in the United States would not give the socially appropriate response; hence, the employers may make faulty assumptions those about employees.

  1. Finding: Different cultures possess facial expressions whose meanings are recognizable only by other members of those cultures. For example, the North American "smug" expression and the British wry smile (one corner up or partial smile) are unknown to some cultures and not universally recognizable.

Implications: Managers who are unaware of the nuances of facial expression of diverse employees cannot accurately read and evaluate nonverbal behavior. Without an accurate interpretation of nonverbal cues, managers are often clueless (and unable to respond) to employees' feelings and concerns.


i M. Zuckerman, J. Lipets, J. Koivumake, & R. Rosenthal, "Encoding and Decoding

Nonverbal Cues of Emotion," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 32 (1975), 1068-

1076; R. Howell and E. Jorgense, "Accuracy of Judging Unposed Emotional Behavior in a

Natural Setting: A Replication Study," Journal of Social Psychology 81 (1970), 269-270; J.

Boucher and P. Ekman, "Facial Areas of Emotional Information," Journal of Communication

25 (1975), 21-29; Burgoon, Buller, and Woodall, 1989; P. Ekman and W. V. Friesen,



Unmasking the Face (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975); Argyle, 1988;

I. E. Alexander and E. Y. Babad, "Returning the Smile of the Stranger: Within-culture and

Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Israeli and American Children," Genetic Psychology

Monographs 103 (1981), 31-77; C. R. Brannigan and D. A. Humphries, "Human Nonverbal

Behavior, a Means of Communication," In N. Blurton Jones (Ed.), Ethological Studies of



Child Behavior (pp. 37-74) (London: Cambridge University Press, 1972); M. LaFrance and

C. Mayo, Moving Bodies (Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1978).





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