Mutual understanding between individuals, groups, and nations is fostered by trust, and trust in turn largely depends on emotion. We trust others partly on the basis of facial appearance, partly on the basis of whether signalled emotions seem sincere, and partly on the basis of a sense of emotional rapport. Emotional information can help to co-ordinate different people’s actions and intentions. However, people can also regulate their emotion presentations in order to conceal or disguise their motives.
Significant interpersonal, intergroup, and societal consequences hinge on whether emotion regulation is deployed and whether it is detected or misinterpreted by others. Unregulated emotion expression can facilitate connectedness, cooperation, and well-being (e.g., Mauss et al., 2011), but misperceived regulation of emotion may lead to interpersonal misunderstanding and miscalibration of motives. In this collaborative project, we focus on how social interactions are affected by perceptions of other people’s expression and regulation of emotion. Our approach is inspired by communicative accounts of emotion (e.g., Hareli & Hess, 2010; Parkinson, 1996; Van Kleef, 2009) and social appraisal (Manstead & Fischer, 2001).
We propose that: a) emotion expressions communicate information about the motives behind the sender’s own behaviour (Fridlund, 1994), and not only about external objects and events; b) senders are sensitive to these communicative effects and regulate their emotion expressions in order to modulate effects on receivers (e.g., to communicate empathy or exert social influence); and c) receivers are aware of the potential for emotion regulation by senders, and may factor in its effects when responding to perceived expressions. Thus, our central aim is to examine how receivers respond to regulated and unregulated emotion presentations that potentially provide information about senders’ motives.