Emotions are complex signals conveying a multitude of "messages" concomitantly. This idea is examined within the context of competence inferences drawn from the emotional expressions of another individual. In two studies, participants assuming the role of patients took part in a simulated medical consultation. They encountered a physician who had either a high or a standard professional status, and who responded with anger, shame, or emotional neutrality when asked to clarify the advice he dispensed. While a display of anger did not affect perceived competence, shame made the physician appear less competent. Three types of signals conveyed by the emotions were responsible for these effects: the physician's decisiveness and control over the situation, and the extent to which he felt professionally devalued by the patient's request, mediated the effects of the emotions on perceived competence. A priori information about the physician's professional status had little effect on the perception of competence. The research exemplifies the richness of information contained in emotions, and the complex way in which it allows observers to construe an impression of the expresser.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Psychology (all)