Research Paper

Research Paper - Facial Expressions in Awkward Situations

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Facial Expressions in Awkward Situations The area or form of communication we decided to explore was the issue  of facial expressions, and more specifically, smiling. We wanted to find out if,  when placed in a seemingly awkward situation, people resort to smiling, and if  that tendency to smile brought forth a felt increase in comfort level. Our research  was based on the theory of display rules and the “deintensified affect.” Display  rules are “cultural norm(s) or convention(s) governing the circumstances in which  facial expressions and other affect displays are allowed, suppressed, or  exaggerated” (Colman). In other words, display rules are society’s unwritten laws  about how one should nonverbally react to given situations. The deintensified  affect, as described by Knapp and Hall, suggests that people will use facial  expressions to make situations which evoke a strong surprise look as though  they have merely garnered mild surprise (299).  In addition to these two ideas, we delved into the relational perspective of  communication and the concept of expectancy violations. The relational  perspective suggests that during interpersonal encounters, “our primary task is to 
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communicate who we are” and to “infer similarity.” The idea of expectancy  violations holds that people have culturally-grounded expectations for what is  typical of nonverbal interaction. When put together, the two theories suggest that  people have an idea of what should happen during interaction, yet when those  interactions have become outside the norm, people still strive to feel like they  have things in common with others. For our group research project, we wanted to 
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Research Paper - Facial Expressions in Awkward Situations

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