Communicating without the Face: Expressive Behavior and Social Perception of People with Facial Paralysis.
Abstract: Facial paralysis (FP) is an understudied condition which results in
significant consequences for social interaction. Four studies examined the expressive
behavior of people with FP, the way others interpret their behavior, and whether perceivers
can be trained to improve their impressions. In Study 1, people with congenital FP were
found to display more expressivity in their bodies ... read moreand voices to compensate for their FP
compared to people with acquired FP. This provides some of the first behavioral evidence
that people with congenital disabilities use more adaptations than people with acquired
conditions. In Studies 2 and 3, we examined perceivers' judgments of the emotions and
personality traits of people with FP to test how perceivers integrate a paralyzed face with
an expressive body and voice. We tested the extent to which emotion judgments are holistic,
based on a combination of face, body, and voice, or based primarily on the paralyzed face.
Perceivers observed short videotapes of people with FP and rated their impressions of
targets' happiness (Study 2) and personality traits (Study 3). Perceivers were randomly
assigned to observe isolated or combined communication channels. People with severe FP were
rated as less happy and extraverted than people with mild FP, but use of compensatory
expressive behavior improved perceivers' impressions. In Study 2, the difference in
perceivers' happiness ratings for severe compared to mild FP was largest when perceivers
only saw the face and reduced when additional channels were observed, suggesting that
emotions are perceived holistically. However, for several traits in Study 3, perceivers'
ratings for severe compared to mild FP did not differ whether they saw only the face or all
channels, suggesting that trait judgments are judged holistically to a lesser extent. In
Study 4, educating perceivers about FP and instructing them to attend to compensatory
expressive channels improved their impressions of people with FP, but not their accuracy,
suggesting that social perception is somewhat malleable. In conclusion, people with FP can
compensate for their lack of facial expression, and people interacting with them can learn
to look beyond the face to some extent.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Psychology.
Advisors: Linda Tickle-Degnen, and Nalini Ambady.
Committee: Linda Tickle-Degnen, Nalini Ambady, Samuel Sommers, and Karen Schmidt.
Keyword: Social psychology.read less