Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Communicating without the face: Expressive behavior and social perception of people with facial paralysis
by Bogart, Kathleen Rives, Ph.D., Tufts University, 2012, 123; 3512095
Abstract (Summary)

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 and 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.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tickle-Degnen, Linda, Ambady, Nalini
Commitee: Ambady, Nalini, Schmidt, Karen, Sommers, Samuel, Tickle-Degnen, Linda
School: Tufts University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-B 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology
Keywords: Facial paralysis, Interpersonal communication, Interpersonal sensitivity, Nonverbal communication, Prejudice reduction, Social functioning
Publication Number: 3512095
ISBN: 978-1-267-40776-4
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