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04.07.2019 | Original Paper

The Role of Physiology and Voice in Emotion Perception During Social Stress

Zeitschrift:
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior
Autoren:
Nathaniel S. Eckland, Teresa M. Leyro, Wendy Berry Mendes, Renee J. Thompson
Wichtige Hinweise

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Abstract

Deciphering others’ affect is ubiquitous in daily life and is important for navigating social interactions and relationships. Research has found that behavioral components, such as facial expressions or body language, are critical channels by which people understand other people’s affect. In the current research, we examined how people’s perceptions of targets’ positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) are associated with targets’ physiological reactivity, and whether behavioral indices mediate these associations. A total of 94 participants (i.e., observers) watched videos of targets completing a social stress task during which targets’ physiological reactivity [i.e., changes in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), cardiac output (CO), and ventricular contractility (VC)] was assessed. We predicted (1) targets’ RSA reactivity would be negatively associated with observers’ perceptions of PA and NA (to a lesser magnitude than PA); (2) targets’ CO reactivity would be positively associated with observers’ perceptions of PA and unrelated to perceptions of NA; and (3) targets’ VC would be positively associated perceptions of PA or NA (VC was an exploratory hypothesis). Our hypotheses were largely supported. Mediational analyses revealed that vocal prosody was a significant mediator of the association between perceptions of targets’ affect and their physiological reactivity. The findings suggest that observers can reliably detect targets’ emotional experiences as they manifest at a physiological level and that voice is an especially useful marker of how people perceive others’ affective experience. The findings have implications for aspects of relationships involving emotion perception, including affect contagion and interpersonal emotion regulation.

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