The Role of Experience in Emotion Understanding Restricted; Files Only

Soderberg, Katherine (Summer 2023)

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Inferring others’ emotions from their varied expressions is a powerful human capacity that is particularly important in close relationships. Despite the fact that accurately interpreting the emotions of familiar others enhances well-being, relatively little research has explored the effect of prior experience on emotion understanding. It is possible that a general mental model connecting expressions to emotions supports emotion inference; alternatively, perceivers might develop person-specific mental models that map idiosyncratic expressions onto emotions based on past experience with individual targets. To arbitrate between these two possibilities, we manipulated prior exposure by showing subjects clips (which varied in modality) of characters from the show Friends. We also capitalized on subjects’ past experience with those characters, categorizing those who had seen the show as “experts” and those with minimal exposure as “naïve.” Then, we asked subjects to infer the emotions characters were feeling in a set of short audiovisual clips. Using Gaussian mixture modeling, we clustered subjects’ emotion ratings into a “ground truth” cluster solution. We classified held-out expert and naïve subjects’ ratings according to this ground truth solution using a support vector machine classifier with a radial basis function kernel to examine if there were differences between expert and naïve groups. Interestingly, classification generalized across expert and naïve groups, suggesting that a general model of emotional expression may be sufficient to explain emotion inference in some contexts.

Table of Contents

1 - Abstract Cover Page

2 - Abstract

3 - Thesis Cover Page

4 - Contents

5 - Introduction

10 - Methods

15 - Results

18 - Discussion

24 - References

29 - Supplemental Materials

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  • English
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