Tag Archives: Facial expression

Managing Collective Emotions Affects Leader Reputation, Impact

Gustave Le Bon

Gustave Le Bon

People in groups and crowds demonstrate collective affect, according to Gustave Le Bon, who asserted that individuals in these contexts collectively act with “impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgment of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of sentiments…” even if these are not their usual individual behaviors.

Adolph Hitler

Adolph Hitler

Well before the rise of charismatic leader Adolph Hitler, Le Bon claimed that “…an individual immersed for some length of time in a crowd soon finds himself…. in a special state, which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotized individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotizer.

One way to evaluate individual and collective affect is through facial expressions because they provide information about how others understand people and events.
As a result, these non-verbal cues enable people to tailor responses to individuals and groups they encounter.

Peter Salovey

Peter Salovey

Tailoring interaction style based on observing others is a key element of Emotional Intelligence, described by Yale’s Peter Salovey and Daisy Grewal as accurately perceiving others’ emotional states and effectively responding with emotionally-charged interpersonal situations.

Daisy Grewal

Daisy Grewal

This is also an essential leadership skill because it enables awareness of sentiments that may be out of others’ awareness or that they may consciously try to suppress to align with prevailing organizational cultures — particularly those that do not encourage emotional awareness and expression.

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

Consequently, accurate perception of others’ emotions is related to effectively managing interpersonal relationships according to University of California, Berkeley’s Hillary Elfenbein and to subordinates’ ratings of managers as transformational leaders in research by Depaul University’s Robert S. Rubin, David C. Munz of Saint Louis University and Cleveland State University’s William H. Bommer.

However, accurate perception of group sentiment is difficult because many people narrow attention to a few individuals and to focus in detail on them, leading to perceptual bias of collective “tunnel vision.”

Takahiko Masuda

Takahiko Masuda

As a result, much information in social context, including the group’s prevailing emotional tone, may be filtered out, noted University of Alberta’s Takahiko Masuda, Phoebe C. Ellsworth of University of Michigan, Wake Forest University’s Batja Mesquita, Janxin Leu of University of Washington, Hokkaido University’s Shigehito Tanida, and Ellen Van de Veerdonk of University of Amsterdam.

Executives and leaders must decode and attend to collective emotions because they often cannot develop individual relationships with each of their many stakeholders and when addressing group emotions including:

Phoebe Ellsworth

Phoebe Ellsworth

  • Employees’ collective anxiety about corporate restructuring, mergers, divestitures, and reductions in force,
  • Consumers’ collective anger,
  • Board of Directors members’ lack of support.
Jennifer George

Jennifer George

Positive collective emotions tend to be over-estimated, and linked to greater customer service and lower absenteeism, reported Texas A & M’s Jennifer George.
In contrast, negative collective emotions like envy are easily under-estimated, and associated with lower group performance and satisfaction by reducing group potency and cohesion in research by University of Kentucky’s Michelle Duffy and Jason Shaw.

Michelle Duffy

Michelle Duffy

A leader’s ability to respond effectively to patterns of shared emotions during strategic organizational change and other emotionally turbulent organizational processes depends on the leader’s ability to widen the “emotional aperture.”

Emotional Aperture 1Like a camera’s aperture adjustment for increased depth of field, emotional aperture refers to ability to recognize the mix of positive and negative emotional experiences in a team, workgroup or business unit.

This “setting change” can bring into focus both nearby individuals and more distantly scattered groups of people.
Likewise, adjusting the emotional aperture involves moving an information-processing focus from individual emotional experiences to a group’s collective emotional composition.

David Matsumoto

David Matsumoto

Although ability to recognize individual emotional expression has been measured by instruments like the Brief Affect Recognition Testthis tool doesn’t evaluate perception and recognition of collective affect.

Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes

Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes

To address this limitationUniversity of Michigan’s Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks and Caroline A. Bartel of University of Texas collaborating with Vanderbilt University’s Laura Rees and Quy Huy of INSEAD developed an Emotional Aperture Measure (EAM).

EAM analyzes a person’s ability to accurately perceive a group’s collective emotions in short video clips of employee groups before and after an organizational event.
Next, participants estimate the proportion of rapid individual positive and negative reactions among group members.
Feedback from this instrument can increase perceiver accuracy through heightened awareness.

Caroline Bartel

Caroline Bartel

Sanchez-Burks contacted direct reports of a global sample of high-ranking managers and requested online evaluations of the manager’s leadership performance.
Three studies demonstrated that collective affect recognition requires a distinct information processing style, differing from perceiving individual emotion.

Laura Rees

Laura Rees

Managers’ EAM performance was significantly correlated with direct reports’ perception of managers’ “transformational leadership” behaviors, suggesting that this ability to accurately perceive group emotion can significantly influence stakeholder impressions and opinions.

People can open their emotional aperture through attention to collective emotions, and may influence prevailing negative group affect by asking the positive minority to share optimistic sentiments with the skeptical majority.
This dialog can increase trust and shared perspectives that may move negative sentiment to become more positive.

Quy Huy

Quy Huy

Leaders who increase the range of their “emotional aperture” can increase followers’ alignment with strategic direction to increase the likelihood to effective execution and change impact.

Try the Emotional Aperture Measure to see your results.Emotional Aperture Measure

-*How do you read the “emotional tone” of a group?

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Body Language Conveys Emotions more Intelligibly than Facial Expressions

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Numerous studies, pioneered by Paul Ekman of University of California, San Francisco, argue that facial expressions provide an accurate, consistent, universal “tell” to underlying emotions.

However, body language more accurately conveys intense emotions than facial Ekman Emotion Stock photoexpressions, according to Hebrew University’s Hillel Aviezer,Yaacov Trope of NYU, and Princeton University’s Alexander Todorov.

Three groups of 15 people judged intense emotions, including pain, pleasure, victory, defeat, grief and joy, portrayed in stock photographs of:

  • facial expressions alone or
  • body language alone or
  • both facial and body expressions.
Hillel Aviezer

Hillel Aviezer

Volunteers assigned more accurate inferences of pictured emotion based on body language, alone or combined with facial expressions, than judgments based on facial context alone.

These results challenge presumption that the face best communicates feeling, yet most participants believe that they rely on facial expression was their most important cue in making inferences.

Yaacov Trope

Yaacov Trope

More than half the volunteers reported that they use facial expression to judge underlying emotions, a bias labeled “illusory facial affect” by Aviezer and team.

Some participants did not view the photos, but heard a description of the content.
The vast majority – 80 percent – said they “would” rely solely on the face when determining the emotion.
The remainder said they would consider the face and body together, yet not one participant indicated that body language alone would be the most important guide to emotion.

Alexander Todorov

Alexander Todorov

Another experiment presented volunteers with altered photos that combined one intense emotional expressed in the face with an opposing “peak” emotion portrayed by the body language.
Volunteers more often judged the emotion associated with the body, although they thought that facial expression was more indicative of underlying emotional experience.

A different condition demonstrated that most participants provided inaccurate judgments of six emotional states portrayed by faces alone:  They judged positive facial expressions as negative more frequently than the actual negative expressions.

Aviezer, Trope, and Todorov argue that facial expressions can be ambiguous and subjective when viewed without the context of body, particularly during intense emotional expressions.

Jamin Halberstadt

Jamin Halberstadt

Jamin Halberstadt of University of Otago explained Team Aviezer’s findings by noting “…bodily context is the expression of emotion…the face reveals a general intensity of feeling but doesn’t communicate what the person is feeling exactly. The body is where the valid information comes from during intense feelings.”

Piotr Winkielman

Piotr Winkielman

His expertise is based on earlier research with University of California at San Diego’s Piotr Winkielman, Paula Niedenthal of University of Wisconsin and University of Clermont-Ferrand’s Nathalie Dalle.
They demonstrated the important role of expectancy in reading, experiencing, and recalling emotions expressed by ambiguous facial photographs.

Paula Niedenthal

Paula Niedenthal

Halberstadt’s team used electromyography (EMG) to evaluate volunteers’ muscle mimicry responses and memory of photos portraying ambiguous faces when associated with emotion labels like “angry” or “happy”, and when the same photos were presented without labels.

Nathalie Dalle

Nathalie Dalle

Participants displayed more EMG activity associated with smiling when they viewed faces labeled “happy” than “angry,” and remembered faces labeled “happy” as happier than faced coded “angry” even though the photographed expressions were ambiguous.

When participants spontaneously mimicked emotions labeled with a specific affect label, they were more likely to remember this emotion.
Since the photos were ambiguous, this recall represents memory bias, based on expecting, then mirroring an expected emotion. 

SPOT-Dept Homeland SecBody language’s greater accuracy than facial expression as a measure of emotion, has important implications for mission critical interrogation and security-screening techniques.

One example is the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program, which was based on Ekman’s facial expression research, but did not account for bodily expression as an indicator of underlying emotion.

Team Aviezer’s findings argue that emotion-screening procedures, as well as everyday workplace interactions, should evaluate both cues from both the body and the face to form most accurate judgments of others’ likely emotional states.  

-*Which cues do you find most helpful in judging other people’s emotional states when interacting with them?

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