Chapter 13: Positive Emotions

Vocal Changes

Next, we will discuss vocal changes associated with positive emotions.  First, let’s discuss Sauter et al.’s (2010) study, which you can review here.  Pay attention to any limitations discussed about this study.

 

In this study, participants matched an emotional story to a corresponding vocal sound for positive and negative emotions. Recall that in this study Himba and English participants listened to the vocal sound from a Himba voice and an English voice. In this study, positive emotions or feelings could be achievement/pride, amusement, sensual pleasure, and relief.  In Figures 8 and 9, note that all positive emotions met the 2 out of 4 threshold, except for relief (Figure 8) and sensory pleasure (Figure 9).  Why would relief and sensory pleasure not be universally recognized?  It could be a methodological problem – maybe the story or the voice did not accurately convey the emotion. Alternatively, it could be sensory pleasure and relief are not universal emotions.

Table 17
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

 

Figure 8
Mean Number of Correct Emotion Labels for Emotion Stories for Himba and European English Participants – Within Cultures
A bar graph shwing the averages for correct emotion labels for emotion stories from Himba and European English Participants

Reproduced from “Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations,” by D.A. Sauter, F.  Eisner, F., P. Ekman, and S.K. Scott, S.K., 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 107(6), p. 2410 (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0908239106) Open Access by PNAS.

 

Figure 9
Mean Number of Correct Emotion Labels for Emotion Stories for Himba and European English Participants – Across Cultures

A bar graph showing averages of correct emotion labels for emotion stories from Himba and European English Participants - Across Cultures

Reproduced from “Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations,” by D.A. Sauter, F.  Eisner, F., P. Ekman, and S.K. Scott, S.K., 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 107(6), p. 2410 (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0908239106) Open Access by PNAS.

 

In Cordaro, Keltner, and colleagues’ (2016) study on vocal change (review here), participants in 10 industrialized countries (Table 17) and Bhutanese participants (Figure 10) again matched stories to a vocal sound . Most of the percentages are above 50%, which in general would suggest that each of these nine feeling states have a universal vocal sound. Look at figures 10, and 11.  Which positive emotion showed the lowest recognition rates?  Which countries showed recognition rates lower than 50 and for which emotion?

 

Figure 10
Percentage Correctly Matched for 9 Positive Emotions or Feeling States
A table reproduced from D.T., Corddano. It shows {Ercentages for correction matched positive emotions.

Note. Values marke as not significant (ns) represent nonverbal vocal bursts that were not recognized at above-chance rates. Footnotes indicate cultural differences in composit accuracy rating at p < .01.

Significant differences in effect sizes were found between Germany > S. Korea (.24), NZ > S. Korea (.35), Poland > S. Korea (.32), Pakistan > S. Korea (.27), U.S. > S. Korea (.26)

 

Figure 11
Percentage Correct for Bhutanese participants across 17 constructs
A bar graph showing percentage correct of labeling 17 constructs within Bhutanese participants

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. See the online article for the color version of this figure.

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. Emotion, 16(1), p. 123 (https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000100). Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association.

 

Sauter and Scott (2007) sought to identify universal vocal changes for five positive emotions: achievement, amusement, contentment, pleasure, and relief. Participants from London and Sweden participated in this study. Prior to the study, male and female British-speaking actors were given a list of scenarios and asked to provide a non-verbal vocal sound to convey each emotion in the scenario.
Participants first completed a categorization task in which they heard the non-verbal vocal sound and then selected one emotion label from a list of five options: achievement/triumph, amusement, contentment, sensual pleasure, and relief. Each emotion label was shown with the corresponding emotion scenario (see Table 18). Following the categorization task, participants listened to each vocal sound and rated how much each sound represented each of the five emotions on a 1 to 7 scale.

 

Table 18
Emotional Scenarios for each Emotion (Sauter & Scott, 2007)

A table showing the correct emotional response to the emotional scenario that is also listed.
Emotion Emotion Scenario
Achievement You get a phone call offering you a job you really want
Amusement You are being tickled and find it really funny.
Contentment You are sitting on the beach watching the sunset.
Pleasure Your boyfriend/girlfriend is touching you in a sensual way.
Relief You thought you had lost your keys but find them again.

Adapted from “More Than One Kind of Happiness: Can We Recognize Vocal Expressions Of Different Positive States?” by D.A. Sauter and S.K. Scott, 2007, Motivation and Emotion, 31(3), p. 198 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-007-9065-x) Copyright 2007 by Springer

 

Table 19 displays the categorization results. In general, both British and Swedish participants selected the correct emotion label for each emotion sound (indicated by the red). A majority of British participants correctly matched each emotion to each vocal sound, although contentment barely made the 50% threshold. Except for contentment, a majority of Swedish participants correctly identified each vocal sound. It is interesting that for both groups, the contentment vocal sound was the least recognized. In Table 19, we can also identify the wrong answers participants provided for each emotion. For the contentment sound, about 25.2 % of British participants and 26.9% of Swedish participants selected pleasure. So, both groups confused contentment and pleasure for the contentment sound. Results showed that Swedish participants performed worse on the categorization task than British participants.

 

Table 19
Percentage of British Participants who Selected each Emotion Label when Hearing each Vocal Sound

A table showing results from british particpants for selecting emotion labels for vocal sounds participants heard.
Vocal Sound Participants Heard Selected Label – Achievement Selected Label – Amusement Selected Label – Contentment Selected Label – Pleasure Selected Label – Relief
Achievement 88.4 4.7 1.9 1.9 3.2
Amusement 1.9 90.4 1.6 3.9 2.3
Contentment 7.9 5.0 52.4 25.2 9.5
Pleasure 0.3 0.4 29.9 61.6 7.9
Relief 0.3 0.3 10.1 5.3 83.9

 

Percentage of Swedish Participants who Selected each Emotion Label when Hearing each Vocal Sound

A table showing results from british particpants for selecting emotion labels for vocal sounds participants heard.
Vocal Sound Participants Heard Selected Label – Achievement Selected Label – Amusement Selected Label – Contentment Selected Label – Pleasure Selected Label – Relief
Achievement 70.9 14.4 4.5 1.9 8.8
Amusement 2.5 80.6 4.1 5.3 7.2
Contentment 8.8 2.8 47.8 26.9 12.5
Pleasure 0.9 1.3 32.8 56.9 8.1
Relief 5.3 0.3 13.1 13.1 67.8

Note. Red bolded percentages indicate the correct answer.

Reproduced from “More Than One Kind of Happiness: Can We Recognize Vocal Expressions Of Different Positive States?” by D.A. Sauter and S.K. Scott, 2007, Motivation and Emotion31(3), p. 194 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-007-9065-x) Copyright 2007 by Springer

 

Participants’ self-reported emotions for each vocal sound are displayed in Figure 11.   For most vocal sounds, participants rated the correct emotion as the highest.  For the contentment sound, British participants rated pleasure as the highest whereas Swedish participants rated achievement, sensory pleasure, and amusement higher than contentment.  For relief, Swedish participants rated the relief sound as higher on achievement than relief.

 

Figure 11

Self-reported Ratings on Five Positive Emotions for Each Vocal Sound

an image of 7 different bar graphs showing results of self-reported ratings on five positive emotions for each vocal sound
Seven bar graphs, Labeled A through G. Each graph shows emotions on the x axis, and a scale of 0.00 to 7.00 on the y axis, and has a bar for english participants and swedish participants. Graph A is achievement scale ratings. Achievement is graphed at 6.25 for english participants, and 6.00 for swedish participants. Amusement is graphed at 4.00 for english participants, 3.5 for swedish. Contentment is graphed at 3.05 for english participants, and 2.75 for swedish. Pleasure is graphed at 3.00 for english participants, 2.3 for swedish. Relief is graphed at 2.9 for english participants, 2.5 for swedish. Graph B – Amusement scale ratings points are graphed as follows: Achievement is graphed at 4.25 for english participants, 5.10 for swedish. Amusement is graphed at 6.00 for english participants, 5.80 for swedish. Contentment is graphed at 2.35 for english participants, 2.55 for swedish. Pleasure is graphed at 2.75 for english participants, 2.85 for swedish. Relief is graphed at 2.00 for english participants, 1.95 for swedish.Graph C – Contentment scale ratings points are graphed as follows:Achievement is graphed at 4.10 for english participants, 4.95 for swedish. Amusement is graphed at 4.00 for english participants, 4.90 for swedish. Contentment is graphed at 4.85 for english participants, 4.80 for swedish. Pleasure is graphed at 5.05 for english participants, 5.00 for swedish. Relief is graphed at 3.50 for english participants, 3.15 for swedish. Graph D – Sensual pleasure scale ratings points are graphed as follows:Achievement is graphed at 4.00 for english participants, 3.60 for swedish. Amusement is graphed at 4.10 for english participants, 4.00 for swedish. Contentment is graphed at 4.05 for english participants, 4.60 for swedish. Pleasure is graphed at 5.10 for english participants, 5.85 for swedish. Relief is graphed at 3.05 for english participants, 3.75 for swedish. Graph E – Relief Scale Ratings points are graphed as follows:Achievement is graphed at 5.00 for english participants, 5.25 for swedish. Amusement is graphed at 3.90 for english participants, 4.25 for swedish. Contentment is graphed at 3.5 for english participants, 3.10 for swedish. Pleasure is graphed at 3.50 for english participants, 3.30 for swedish. Relief is graphed at 5.20 for english participants, 4.95 for swedish. Graph F – Arousal scale ratings points are graphed as follows:Achievement is graphed at 5.50 for english participants, 5.99 for swedish. Amusement is graphed at 4.80 for english participants, 4.95 for swedish. Contentment is graphed at 3.15 for english participants, 2.80 for swedish. Pleasure is graphed at 3.55 for english participants, 2.5 for swedish. Relief is graphed at 2.75 for english participants, 2.20 for swedish. Graph G – Valence scale ratings points are graphed as follows: Achievement is graphed at 6.25 for english participants, 5.95 for swedish. Amusement is graphed at 5.75 for english participants, 5.70 for swedish. Contentment is graphed at 4.10 for english participants, 4.25 for swedish. Pleasure is graphed at 4.80 for english participants, 4.75 for swedish. Relief is graphed at 3.50 for english participants, 3.45 for swedish.

Reproduced from “More Than One Kind of Happiness: Can We Recognize Vocal Expressions Of Different Positive States?” by D.A. Sauter and S.K. Scott, 2007, Motivation and Emotion31(3), p. 196 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-007-9065-x) Copyright 2007 by Springer

 

This study provides evidence that participants in two cultures correctly identified several positive emotions.  Two exceptions seem to be contentment and relief.  Sauter and Scott (2007) suggest contentment was not recognized because contentment is either part of the sensory pleasure emotion or because contentment is a low intensity emotion.  It might be that low intensity positive emotions like pleasure and contentment are harder to recognize than high intensity emotions.  Although these emotions were recognized in two cultures, both cultures are Western European countries.  This work should be further tested in additional cultures to provide evidence for universality.

 

Gendron, Barrett et al. (2014a) (review study  here) looked at vocal changes for positive emotions – amusement, relief, sensory pleasure, and triumph/pride. Remember in this study, participants heard the sound and then free-labeled the emotion. Then, researchers coded the free label into an emotion category.  The vocal sounds used for each emotion are displayed in Table 20.

 

Table 20

Vocal Sounds and Corresponding Emotion from Gendron et al. (2014a)

A table showing a descrete emotion protrayed, and the corresponding vocalization of the emotion.
Descrete Emotion Portrayed Vocalization
Amusement Giggle, Laughter
Anger Guttural yell, growl
Disgust “Ewww”
Fear Scream
Relief Sigh
Sadness Cry
Sensory Pleasure “Mmm mmm”
Surprise “Ahhh-ahhh”
Triumph “Woohoo”

 

Findings in Figure 12 show that amusement was the only positive emotion identified by both groups.  A majority of U.S. participants correctly identified relief, but the Himba did not. For sensory pleasure and triumph, researchers did not find that a majority U.S. or Himba participants correctly identified the vocal sound.  Results showed that Himba participants free labeled responses for “woo hoo” were either non-emotion related or related to the emotion amusement.   For the feelings relief and sensory pleasure, a majority of Himba participants labeled the sound as no emotion.

 

Figure 12

Percentage of Participants who Free Labeled Each Emotion Correctly

A bar graph with U.S. Participants, and Himba participants. The X-axis are different emotions, the y axis is the mean agreement with intended emotion (as a percentage 0 - 100)
Amusement is graphed at 69% for U.S. participants, 79% for Himba. Anger is graphed at 65% for U.S. participants, 2% for Himba. Disgust is graphed at 58% for U.S. participants, and 0% for Himba. Fear is graphed at 54% for U.S. participants, 20% for Himba. Relief is graphed at 68% for U.S. participants, 2% for Himba. Saddness is graphed at 58.5% for U.S. Participants, 2% for Himba. Sensory Pleasure is graphed at 45% for U.S. participants, 5% for Himba. Surprise is graphed at 72% for U.S. Participants, 0% for Himba. Triumph is graphed at 6.5% for U.S. participants, 0% for Himba.

Reproduced from “Cultural Relativity in Perceiving Emotion From Vocalizations,” by M. Gendron, D. Roberson, J.M. van der Vyver, and L.F. Barrett, 2014a, Psychological Science, 25(4), p. 914, (https://doi: 10.1177/0956797613517239). Copyright 2014 The Authors.

 

Now, a large group of Himba and US participants did identify the positive valence of the sounds for amusement and triumph (see Figure 13), supporting some constructivist views that emotions are simply a range of valence and arousal.  For relief, only a majority of the U.S. participants agreed the relief sound was positive in valence.  For sensory pleasure, the researchers did not find that a majority of U.S. or Himba participants agreed the “mmm-mmm” sound was positive.

 

Figure 13

Self-Reported Valence of Each Emotion

A bar graph with U.S. Participants, and Himba participants. The X-axis are different emotions, the y axis is the mean agreement with intended emotion (as a percentage 0 - 100)
Amusement is graphed at 70% for U.S. participants, 98% for Himba. Anger is graphed at 83% for U.S. participants, 76% for Himba. Disgust is graphed at 89% for U.S. participants, and 60% for Himba. Fear is graphed at 84% for U.S. participants, 56% for Himba. Relief is graphed at 68% for U.S. participants, 20% for Himba. Saddness is graphed at 84.5% for U.S. Participants, 58% for Himba. Sensory Pleasure is graphed at 48.5% for U.S. participants, 19% for Himba. Surprise is graphed at 76% for U.S. Participants, 0% for Himba. Triumph is graphed at 72.5% for U.S. participants, 68% for Himba.

Reproduced from “Cultural Relativity in Perceiving Emotion From Vocalizations,” by M. Gendron, D. Roberson, J.M. van der Vyver, and L.F. Barrett, 2014a, Psychological Science, 25(4), p. 915, (https://doi: 10.1177/0956797613517239). Copyright 2014 The Authors.

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