The communicative functions of facial expressions
L. Ian Reed
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, NYU
Previous research suggests that some facial expressions of emotion serve a communicative function by signaling private feelings and action tendencies. Further, some expressions such as smiles and scowls affect receivers by increasing the credibility of accompanying verbal and/or written statements. Here, I will discuss the credible signaling hypothesis and the evidence in support of it. This will include a discussion of experiments using economic games to create strategic situations in which facial expressions of emotion might benefit signalers and receivers. These experiments test whether a signaler’s emotional expressions increase the credibility of promises, threats, claims of danger, and assurances of trustworthiness. The results speak to the hidden strategies behind spontaneous and deliberate expressions and their effects on receiver’s behavior.