Emotional Expressions as Appeals to Recipients

Andrea Scarantino, Shlomo Hareli, Ursula Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotion expressions convey information. One important kind of information, from a communicative perspective, is information about what is demanded of the recipients of the expression. Compared to the vast body of research that focuses on whether, and to what degree, emotion expressions convey information about inner states, there is surprisingly little systematic research on the information emotion expressions convey about what the expresser wants the recipient to do. The present research documents for the first time the set of appeals associated with the expressions of anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and disgust. In two studies, we found that (a) generally, for each emotional expression, a core appeal is perceived as being made on recipients, but also a range of complementary demands, and that (b) context matters, as is the case for social perception of emotions in general. In this case, who caused the emotion expression affects the mapping between emotional expressions and appeals. Finally, (c) recipients report intentions to comply with these appeals, as can be expected from a functional point of view. Overall, these findings put the focus squarely on the imperative dimension of emotional expressions and lend support to the view that emotional communication entails an attempt to influence recipients rather than simply to inform them about how expressers feel or what they may do next. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1856-1868
Number of pages13
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Emotions
  • Facial Expression
  • Humans
  • Social Perception


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