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Facing exclusion and smiling through the pain: positive emotion expression during interpersonal ostracism

Authors Svetieva E, Zadro L, Kim D, Hurley CM, Goodacre R

Received 25 November 2018

Accepted for publication 19 February 2019

Published 5 April 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 229—239


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Elena Svetieva,1 Lisa Zadro,2 Daejoong Kim,3 Carolyn M Hurley,4 Rani Goodacre2

1Department of Communication, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO, USA; 2School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia; 3Department of Media & Communication, Dong-A University, Busan, South Korea; 4Department of Communication Studies and Theatre, Northern Virginia Community College, Sterling, VA, USA

Background: The present research compares smiling and emotion expression generally to other indicators of negative intra- and interpersonal reactions to ostracism, and in particular negative reactions towards the ostracizers.
Methods: A total of N=143 participants (n=55 in Experiment 1 and n=88 in Experiment 2) were ostracized from a web-conference by two other individuals. Facial expressions of participants during the exclusion period were coded using EMFACS and compared to self-reported reactions to ostracism and the sources of the ostracism.
Results: Ostracized individuals showed significant levels of both Duchenne (genuine) and non-Duchenne (social) smiling, despite finding ostracism highly aversive, reporting more negative attitudes towards the ostracizing confederates, and (in Experiment 2) higher levels of negative affect. Experiment 2 showed evidence of a self-regulation and display management function of smiling during ostracism in that participants who exhibited more Duchenne smiling during their exclusion also reported higher levels of positive emotion after the ostracism, and were also rated by a group of judges as experiencing more amusement at their exclusion.
Conclusion: The web conferencing paradigm used in this study provides an ecologically valid method to study the management of expressive behavior during aversive interpersonal experiences, adding to the existing evidence of facial display management during other types of distressing experience.

Keywords: ostracism, facial expressions, self-regulation, emotion, display rules

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