Chapter 3: Basic Emotion Theory and Social Constructivist Theory

Vocal Affect: Basic Emotions Theory

Sauter, Eisner, Ekman, and Scott (2010) conducted a cross-cultural study to determine whether people could correctly identify the emotions represented by vocal change. (Note: Ekman, a basic emotions researcher, is one of the authors). Sauter et al. (2010) recruited European English participants and Himba participants (representing the first quasi-IV). Participants listened to an emotional story in their own language. Then, researchers listened to two audio clips of vocal change. Participants were instructed to select the audio clip that matched the emotion in the story. Participants completed this method twice – once when listening to voices from their own culture and a second time when listening to voices from the other culture (IV #2). It is important to note that the sounds were recordings of actors making the vocal sounds. The actors were given a brief scenario and instructed to make the vocalization that they would make if they experienced the emotion in that scenario. The table below shows the emotion story and corresponding correct vocal change.

 

Table 8

Emotional Stories and Corresponding sounds from Sauter et al. (2010)

Adapted from “Cross-Cultural Recognition of Basic Emotions Through Nonverbal Emotional Vocalizations,” by S.A. Sauter, F. Eisner, P. Ekman, and S.K. Scott, 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 107, Online Supplemental Material (https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/suppl/2010/01/12/0908239106.DCSupplemental/pnas.200908239SI.pdf), (https:// doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0908239106). Copyright 2010 National Academy of Sciences.
Emotion Described in Story Correct Vocal Sound
Achievement [Pride]

English Version: Someone gets a phone call and is offered a job that they really want and they feel like they want to celebrate.

Himba Version: Someone manages to kill a lion by themselves and they feel like they want to celebrate.

Cheers
Amusement

Someone is being tickled by a child and finds it very funny

Laughs
Anger

Someone is being treated in a rude way deliberately, and is very angry about it.

Growl
Disgust

Someone has just eaten rotten food and feels very disgusted.

Retches [vomiting]
Fear

Someone is suddenly faced with a dangerous animal and feels very scared.

Screams
Sensual Pleasure

Someone is having sex and enjoying it very much.

Moans
Relief

Someone has just found their child after it was lost and they feel very relieved.

Sighs
Sadness

Someone finds out that a member of their family has died and they feel very sad.

Sobs
Surprise

Someone sees a bright light in the middle of the night and is very surprised.

Sharp Inhalation

Adapted from “Cross-Cultural Recognition of Basic Emotions Through Nonverbal Emotional Vocalizations,” by S.A. Sauter, F. Eisner, P. Ekman, and S.K. Scott, 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 107, Online Supplemental Material (https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/suppl/2010/01/12/0908239106.DCSupplemental/pnas.200908239SI.pdf), (https:// doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0908239106). Copyright 2010 National Academy of Sciences.

 

The dependent variable was the mean number of correct responses.  For each emotion, participants completed four trials.  Sauter et al. (2010) suggested that identifying the correct emotion at beyond chance levels provides evidence of universality.  So, we would want to see that participants correctly identified each emotion on more than two out of four trials (that the average was above the red line in the figures below).First, we will consider the within cultures results – when Himba participants listened to Himba voices and English participants listened to English voices.  For all nine emotions, the English participants matched the vocal sound to the correct emotion. The Himba matched the vocal sound to the emotion conveyed in the story for all emotions except relief.

Now, let’s consider the across cultures results – when Himba participants listened to the English voices and the English participants listened to the Himba voices. Again, English participants matched the correct Himba vocal sound to the emotion story for all nine emotions.  Himba participants matched the correct English vocal sound to the emotion story for the following six emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise and amusement.  It is interesting to note that for within and across cultures, Himba participants did not reach beyond chance levels for some positive emotions (e.g., pleasure, achievement/pride) and for mixed emotions (e.g., relief).

In general, these findings provide support for universal changes in vocal affect for some emotions (e.g., anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise, amusement), but suggest cross-cultural differences exist for other emotions.

Cordaro, Keltner, and colleagues (2016) conducted a study similar to Sauter et al., (2010). This study compared identification of vocal change across 10 industrialized countries (USA, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Turkey, Poland, and Pakistan) and Butan, with the same procedure as Sauter et al., (2010).  Bhutan is an isolated country located in the Himalayas. This study incorporated 9 positive emotions (see Table 9) and 8 negative emotions (see Table 10). Figure 13 shows the findings across these emotions for Bhutan.

 

Table 9

Percentage Correctly Matched for 9 Positive Emotions or Feeling States

A table of countries, all with percentages for the emotions: Amused, Awe, Content, Desire (food), Desire (sex), interest, relief, sympathy, triumph, andd overall accuracy.

Reproduced from D.T., Cordaro, D. Keltner, S. Tshering, D. Wangchuk, and L.M. Flynn, 2016, The voice conveys emotion in ten globalized cultures and one remote village in Bhutan. Emotion16(1), p. 122 (https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000100). Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association.

Table 10

Percentage Correctly Matched for 8 Negative Emotions or Feeling States

A table of countries, all with percentages for the emotions: Amused, Awe, Content, Desire (food), Desire (sex), interest, relief, sympathy, triumph, andd overall accuracy.

Reproduced from D.T., Cordaro, D. Keltner, S. Tshering, D. Wangchuk, and L.M. Flynn, 2016, The voice conveys emotion in ten globalized cultures and one remote village in Bhutan. Emotion16(1), p. 123 (https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000100). Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association.

Figure 13

Percentage correct for Bhutanese participants across 17 constructsA bar graph for average recognition rates for remote bhutanese villagers in the vocal burst recognition task. The hashed line represents chance for the nonparametric t test. Error bars are shown at the 95% confidence level. The following emotions are graphed from left to right on the image: Sad, Fear, pain, desire food, awe, disgust, surprise, amusement, content, anger, triumph, embaraased, desire sex, sympathy, interest, contempt, relief

Reproduced from D.T., Cordaro, D. Keltner, S. Tshering, D. Wangchuk, and L.M. Flynn, 2016, The voice conveys emotion in ten globalized cultures and one remote village in Bhutan. Emotion16(1), p. 124 (https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000100). Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association.

 

Taking the three figures together, in general most participants matched the correct vocal sound to the correct emotional story.  One exception is South Korea – who did not reach above chance levels for desire (food) and sympathy.  In Table 10, we can also see that participants from India did not reach above chance levels for the emotion surprise. Figure 13 shows that Bhutaense participants achieved beyond chance levels for all emotions, although relief barely made the cut!

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