Chapter 13: Positive Emotions

Facial Expressions and Cognitive Appraisals

Appraisal theorists have applied the Component Process Model (Scherer, 2001; for a review, go here) to determine how action units vary according to cognitive appraisal checks.  This study was done by Scherer, who developed the CPM, and his colleagues (Mortillaro et al., 2011).  They investigated the action unit changes for joy, pride, sensory pleasure, and interest. (Note: the researchers stated that sensory pleasure and interest may not meet the requirements for an emotion).  In this study, 10 professional actors displayed each of the four feeling states – joy, pride, sensory pleasure, and interest. For each feeling state displayed, coders identified the presence of action units and how long the action units were displayed on the actors’ face. Overall, this study found that the action unit changes for pride and joy were the same and the action unit changes for interest and pleasure were the same (see Table 13).  Thus, overall findings contrasted the differences in action unit changes for two groups – 1) Pride, Joy vs. 2) Interest, Sensory Pleasure.  Table 13 displays the findings for each of the relevant action units.  Remember, differences were not found between joy and pride OR between interest and sensory pleasure.  Overall, the findings in Table 13 suggest that pride and joy results in more Duchenne smiling (AU 6 + 12) than interest and pleasure.  But generally, these findings suggest that specific action units do not occur for specific discrete emotions.  These findings may support Ekman’s (1992, 1993) theory that all positive emotions represent different intensities of the same positive emotion family.

 

Table 13

Differences in Action Unit Changes and Duration for Pride, Joy vs. Interest, Pleasure (Martillaro et al., 2011)

A table showing a specific Action Unit, a description of that action unit, and also the presence / duration of the action unit.
Action Unit Action Unit Description Presence / Duration of Action Unit
1 Inner brow raiser

An image example of Action Unit 1: Inner brow raiser.
An image of a person’s inner brow being raised.
Present more in joy than pleasure
2 Outer brow raiser

An image example of the action unit 2: Outer brow raiser.
An image of a person’s outer brow being raised
Present more in pride than pleasure
6 Cheek raiser

An image example of action unit 6: Chek raiser.
An image of a person’s eyes and cheeks. The persons cheeks are raised.
  • Longer, more frequent in joy vs. interest
  • Did not distinguish joy from pride or pleasure
7 Lid tightener

An image example of action unit seven: Lid Tightener
An image of a person’s eyes with the lids tightened.
Longer duration for interest than joy
12 Lip corner puller

An image example of action unit 12: Lip Corner Puller.
An image of a persons cheeks and mouth. The corners of the mouth /lips are pulled.
Shorter, more frequent smiles in pride vs. interest, pleasure; “small smile” present in pride (Tracy & Robins, 2004, 2008)
17 Chin Raiser

An image example of action unit 17: Chin Raiser
An image of a persons mouth, with the chin being raised.
More in pride than pleasure

Photos reproduced and adapted from “Subtly Different Positive Emotions Can Be Distinguished By Their Facial Expressions” by M. Mortillaro, M. Mehu, and K.R. Scherer, 2011, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(3), p. 265-266 (https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550610389080) Copyright 2011 by The Authors.

 

This study did not find any unique action unit changes to differentiate the four positive feeling states. So, the appraisal theorists explored whether the duration of certain action units corresponded to three cognitive appraisal dimensions from the CPM: 1) suddenness 2) intrinsic pleasantness, and 3) goal conduciveness.

The suddenness appraisal (Table 14) may be displayed in long durations of AU1 and AU2, which were present in interest and joy displays.  Conversely, AU43 was displayed during pride and sensory pleasure, feelings that do not include a suddenness appraisal. Interestingly, the researchers view suddenness as occurring on a dimension from eyes being almost completely closed (AU 43) to eyes being wide open (AU 1+2 + 5). In other words, as shown in Figure 7, the amount of eye openness may be positively correlated with suddenness.

Table 14A
Relationship between Suddenness Appraisal and Duration of Action Unit Changes for High Suddenness

Longer Duration of AU AU Description Emotions where the AU is Present
AU 1 Inner Brow Raise

An image example of Action Unit 1: Inner brow raiser.
An image of a person’s inner brow being raised.
Interest, Joy
AU 2 Outer Brow Raise

An image example of the action unit 2: Outer brow raiser.
An image of a person’s outer brow being raised
Interest, Joy
AU 5 Upper Lid Raiser

An image example of Action Unit 5: Upper Lid Raiser
An image of a persons eyes, the lids are raised, opening the eyes wide.
Interest, Joy

Table 14B
Relationship between Suddenness Appraisal and Duration of Action Unit Changes for low Suddenness

Longer Duration of AU AU Description Emotions where the AU is Present
AU 43
An image example of action unit 43: Eye Closure
An image of a persons eyes closed.
Pride, Sensory Pleasure

 

Figure 7
Correlational Relationship Between Suddenness Appraisal and Amount Eyes Opened

An image showing examples of Correlational Relationship between Suddenness Appraisal and Amount Eyes Opened
An arrow is displayed flowing across the image from left to right, indicating a scale of suddenness. Above the arrow is an image example of action unit 43 – Eye closure (left), and an image example of action units 1, 2, and 5. AU 43 is placed on the left to indicate the suddenness level being low. AU 1, 2, 5 is shown on the right to indicate a larger suddenness level.

Reproduced from “Subtly Different Positive Emotions Can Be Distinguished By Their Facial Expressions,” by M. Mortillaro, M. Mehu, and K.R. Scherer, 2011, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(3), p. 265-266 (https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550610389080) Copyright 2011 by The Authors.

 

AU6 is present during the experience of intrinsic pleasantness – general feelings of positivity that exist early in the emotion episode (Table 15). AU6 is present during feeling states of joy and pleasure, but absent during feeling states of pride and interest. Thus, the authors believe AU6 might differentiate positive emotions that cause a joyful smile from positive emotions that cause other smiles, such as the small smile in pride. Interestingly, AU12 (lip corner puller) did not differentiate the four positive feeling states and in fact was present for all four feeling states. This suggests that AU12 may change when experiencing any positive emotion.

Table 15
Relationship between Intrinsic Pleasantness Appraisal and Presence of Action Unit Change

A table showing Action Unit 6, a high intinsic pleasantness appraisal
High Intrinsic Pleasure AU 6
An image example of action unit 6: Chek raiser.
An image of a person’s eyes and cheeks. The persons cheeks are raised.
Joy, Pleasure

Photos reproduced and adapted from “Subtly Different Positive Emotions Can Be Distinguished By Their Facial Expressions,” by M. Mortillaro, M. Mehu, and K.R. Scherer, 2011, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(3), p. 265-266 (https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550610389080) Copyright 2011 by The Authors.

 

Emotions caused by appraisals of goal conduciveness (e.g., joy, pride) were accompanied by long duration of action unit changes of 1+2+6 (Table 16). Positive emotions that do not help people achieve their goals (i.e., interest, sensory pleasure) were accompanied by longer duration action unit changes of 7 + 43. The researchers theorize that AU7 represents a state of focus or concentration.

Table 16
Relationship between Goal Conduciveness Appraisal and Duration of Action Unit Changes for High Goal Conduciveness

High goal conduciveness table showing relationships between goal conduciveness appraisal and duration of Action unit changes.
Action Unit AU Description Emotions Present in
AU 1 Inner Brow Raiser

An image example of Action Unit 1: Inner brow raiser.
An image of a person’s inner brow being raised.
Joy, Pride
AU 2 Outer Brow Raiser

An image example of the action unit 2: Outer brow raiser.
An image of a person’s outer brow being raised
Joy, Pride
AU 6 Cheek Raiser

An image example of action unit 6: Chek raiser.
An image of a person’s eyes and cheeks. The persons cheeks are raised.
Joy, Pride

Table 16 B
Relationship between Goal Conduciveness Appraisal and Duration of Action Unit Changes for Low Goal Conduciveness

Low goal conduciveness table showing relationships between goal conduviceness appraisal and duration of Action unit changes.
Action Unit AU Description Emotions Present in
AU 7 Lid Tightener

An image example of action unit seven: Lid Tightener
An image of a person’s eyes with the lids tightened.
Interest, Pleasure
AU 43 Eye Closure

An image example of action unit 43: Eye Closure
An image of a persons eyes closed.
Interest, Pleasure

Photos reproduced and adapted from “Subtly Different Positive Emotions Can Be Distinguished By Their Facial Expressions,” by M. Mortillaro, M. Mehu, and K.R. Scherer, 2011, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(3), p. 265-266 (https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550610389080) Copyright 2011 by The Authors.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Psychology of Human Emotion. by Michelle Yarwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book