Facial expressions of emotion influence interpersonal trait inferences
Theorists have argued that facial expressions of emotion serve the interpersonal function of allowing one animal to predict another's behavior. Humans may extend these predictions into the indefinite future, as in the case of trait inference. The hypothesis that facial expressions of emotion (e.g., anger, disgust, fear, happiness, and sadness) affect subjects' interpersonal trait inferences (e.g., dominance and affiliation) was tested in two experiments. Subjects rated the dispositional affiliation and dominance of target faces with either static or apparently moving expressions. They inferred high dominance and affiliation from happy expressions, high dominance and low affiliation from angry and disgusted expressions, and low dominance from fearful and sad expressions. The findings suggest that facial expressions of emotion convey not only a target's internal state, but also differentially convey interpersonal information, which could potentially seed trait inference.