should_we_call_it_exp - Innovations in Social Science...

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Innovations in Social Science Research, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 333-344, 1997 Should We Call it Expression or Communication? Paul Ekman Abstract Two issues are addressed. First is the matter of just what type of information can be derived from observing a facial expression of emotion. Seven different emotion domains are described. Then problems inherent in the terms expression and communication are described as they apply to facial behaviour. In this context the argument that the face just signals about interactive not emotional phenomena is shown to be a false and misleading dichotomy. The two questions this article addresses presume that the reader accepts the evidence that there are universals in facial expressions of emotion. Granting that, the question still can be asked as to what it is that we know when we observe a facial expression of emotion. Is it an emotion term, such as the person is angry, afraid, disgusted, sad, happy, etc.? Or is it some other kind of message about what is happening inside the person, or what the person is likely to do? This is an issue which cuts across disciplines, for some of those in sociology and anthropology, as well as some in psychology have argued that facial expressions convey information about the state of a relationship, and it is misleading to use a framework which emphasizes individual emotions. The second matter considered is whether these are messages sent to us, a form of communication, or are they involuntary expressions of an internal state. Again there is division about this issue, in a number of disciplines. Consider in your minds eye a person looking directly at you, with her head thrust slightly forward, brows lowered and pulled together, eyes glaring, and whose lips are tightly pressed. Consider the diverse information that someone who observes this expression, totally out of context might obtain: Someone insulted/offended/provoked her. She is planning to attack that person. She is remembering the last time someone insulted her. She is feeling very tense. She is boiling. She is about to hit someone. She wants the person who provoked her to stop what he/she is doing. She is angry. Compare this to the information that can be obtained if you were to see someone with his head turned slightly away, his nose wrinkled, his upper lip raised, and lower lip lowered slightly.
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Someone or something revolted him. He is thinking about how to get rid of it. He is remembering the last time he was revolted. He is feeling nauseous. He feels like he’s on a roller-coaster. He is going to leave. He wants the person who revolted him to stop what he/she is doing. He is disgusted. Each expression provides very different information, yet they both provide information about the same seven kinds or domains of information. 1.
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should_we_call_it_exp - Innovations in Social Science...

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