Emotional Versus Neutral Expressions and Perceptions of Social Dominance and Submissiveness

Shlomo Hareli, Noga Shomrat, Ursula Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotional expressions influence social judgments of personality traits. The goal of the present research was to show that it is of interest to assess the impact of neutral expressions in this context. In 2 studies using different methodologies, the authors found that participants perceived men who expressed neutral and angry emotions as higher in dominance when compared with men expressing sadness or shame. Study 1 showed that this is also true for men expressing happiness. In contrast, women expressing either anger or happiness were perceived as higher in dominance than were women showing a neutral expression who were rated as less dominant. However, sadness expressions by both men and women clearly decreased the extent to which they were perceived as dominant, and a trend in this direction emerged for shame expressions by men in Study 2. Thus, neutral expressions seem to be perceived as a sign of dominance in men but not in women. The present findings extend our understanding of the way different emotional expressions affect perceived dominance and the signal function of neutral expressions-which in the past have often been ignored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-384
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by a joint Vancouver Hospital/British Columbia Health Research Foundation Hospital Community Research Partnership Competition (FY99/00) and a seed grant from the British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women's Health.


  • emotional expression
  • social dominance
  • social perception of emotions
  • social submissiveness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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