University of Oxford

The Oxford team (Brian Parkinson, Danielle Shore) investigates the role of emotion expression in trust and cooperation, but focuses on the senders’ motives for presenting and regulating emotion. Considering emotional expressions as communicative, a sender (the person expressing the emotion) communicates information to a receiver (the person seeing the senders’ emotion) about a specific event or behaviour. When combined with a behaviour the senders’ expression informs the receiver of their social motives.  Thus, emotional expressions in conjunction with trust-breaking or trust-reinforcing behaviour infer whether the sender is more or less likely to meet social expectations in future. For example, if a sender displays guilt after a negative behaviour it suggests they will behave in a way that repairs trust in the future because not meeting expectations made him or her feel bad.  The emotions experienced during interactions requiring trust are strongly influenced by perceptions of others’ expectations and allocation of blame (e.g., Parkinson & Illingworth, 2009).  Thus, emotional expressions will be shaped by the extent to which senders are motivated to maintain cooperative relationships with receivers, according to their perception of receivers’ sense of being short-changed.

We assess the role of expressed emotions in determining other people’s responses, future expectations, and sense of obligation to fulfil these expectations in trust games between members of the same or different groups.  Further, we consider whether emotion expressions may be intended to moderate others’ future expectations of reward, providing the possibility of strategic emotion presentation as a way of regulating both the other’s emotion (e.g., Parkinson & Simons, 2012) and one’s own emotions.  Six experimental studies are planned, two focusing on interpersonal trust games, two manipulating group membership and perceived group membership, and two comparing cooperative and competitive frames.