Can compassion, happiness and sympathetic concern be differentiated on the basis of facial expression?
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AbstractRecent research has demonstrated the importance of positive emotions, and especially compassion, for well-being. Via two investigations, we set out to determine if facial expressions of happiness, “kind” compassion and sympathetic concern can be distinguished, given limitations of previous research. In investigation one, prototypes of the three expressions were analysed for similarities and differences using the facial action coding system (FACS) by two certified independent coders. Results established that each expression comprised distinct FACS units. Thus, in investigation 2, a new photographic stimulus set was developed using a gender/racially balanced group of actors to pose these expressions of “kind” compassion, happiness, sympathetic concern, and the face in a relaxed/neutral pose. 75 participants were then asked to name the FACS generated expressions using not only forced categorical quantitative ratings but, importantly, free response. Results revealed that kind compassionate facial expressions: (i) engendered words associated with contented and affiliative emotions (although, interestingly, not the word “kind”); (ii) were labelled as compassionate significantly more often than any of the other emotional expressions; but (iii) in common with happiness expressions, engendered happiness word groupings and ratings. Findings have implications for understandings of positive emotions, including specificity of expressions and their veridicality.
CitationCondliffe, O. and Maratos, F.A., (2020). 'Can compassion, happiness and sympathetic concern be differentiated on the basis of facial expression?' Cognition and Emotion, pp. 1-13.
PublisherTaylor and Francis
JournalCognition and Emotion