The Communication of Emotional Meaning

AutorDavitz, Joel Robert
PealkiriThe communication of emotional meaning / [by] Joel R. Davitz, with Michael Beldoch, Sidney Blau ... [et al.]
IlmunudNew York [etc.] : McGraw-Hill, 1964
ViideDavitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Davitz, Joel R. 1964b. A review of research concerned with facial and vocal expression of emotion. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 13-30.
To reduce articiality of their stimuli, a number of investigators have used photographs of unposed, spontaneous facial expressions (Schulze, 1912; Munn, 1940; Hanawalt, 1944), and it is interesting to note that in terms of accuracy of communication, there are no consistent differences between the results obtained with posed and unposed pictures. Communication necessarily involves shared interpretations of more or less conventional cues; without such conventions one could hardly expect one person to understand another. It seems reasonable, therefore, to assume that the cues which communicate meaning in posed pictures are similar to, and in fact based on, cues observed in normal, everyday facial expressions. Unless one were to assume a special, artificial facial "language" specific to the theater or the psychological laboratory, one must conclude that the relatively accurate communication reported in most studies is a function of knowledge shared, at least implicitly, by those persons who communicate with each other. (Davitz 1964b: 16)
This was a pertinent question in relation with methods used at the time. This is discussed further in the book by others as well (e.g. Turner 1964: 131-132).
Beldoch, Michael 1964. Sensivity to Emotional expression in three modes of communication. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 31-42.
Previous work (Davitz & Davitz, 1959b; Fairbanks & Pronevost, 1939) using vocal communication provided important guides in developing the measure to assess sensitivity to vocal expression. Three male and two female speakers tape-recorded recitations of the same three-sentence paragraph in an attempt to communicate twelve different emotions: admiration; affection; amusement; anger; boredom; despair; disgust; feat; impatience; joy; love; worship. The paragraph, "I am going out now. I won't be back all afternoon. If anyone calls, just tell them I'm not here," was selected for its apparent neutrality so far as specific emotional content was concerned. (Beldoch 1964: 32)
Davitz, Joel R. 1964d. Personality, perceptual, and cognitive correlates of emotional sensitivity. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 57-68.
The Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey measures 10 personality traits identified through factor analysis. These traits include: general activity, restraint, ascendance, sociability, emotional stability, objectivity, friendliness, thoughtfulness, personal relations (tolerance, cooperativeness), and masculinity-femininity.
The Allport-Vernon-Lindzey Study of Values measures theoretically derived, basic interests or values, including: theoretical, economic, aesthetic, social, political, and religious.
THe Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS) was designed to measure 15 needs defined in terms of Murray's conceptualization of motivation. These needs are: archievement, deference, order, exhibitionism, autonomy, affection, intraception, nurturance, change, endurance, heterosexuality, and aggression. (Davitz 1964c: 58)
Yet again, neat. These categories are good to know. Same goes for this chart of vocal characteristics, which has also appeared in Argyle (1975).

Dimitrovsky, Lilly 1964. The ability to identify the emotional meaning of vocal expressions at successive age levels. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 69-86.

Davitz, Joel R. 1964d. Auditory Correlates of vocal expressions of emotional meanings. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 101-112.
"Experimental literature" from pages 102-103:

Blau, Sidney 1964. An ear for an eye: sensory compensation and judments of affect by the blind. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 113-128.
The ancient Greeks believed that victims of blindness were beneficiaries, of a "divine compensation." The gods blessed the blind with prophecy and poetry. Homer's blind minstrel is "the muse's beloved" to whom both evil and good had been granted. (Blau 1964: 113)
In the course of a pilot study, several variables other than those explicitly suggested by previous writers were encouraged. While examining data derived from a test of ability to identify everyday sounds, it was noted that congenitally blind adolescents, as compared to the sighted, seemed to display a greater tendency to find affect in sounds which contained no explicit affectual connotation. For example, blind Ss more often described a barking dog as, "a dog when he's been hurt," "a friendly dog," etc. A measure was developed to study this tendency toward affect-attention in spoken dialogue.
It was also observed that blind Ss seemed to be distinguishable from the sighted in their identification of various sounds. Regardless of accuracy, blind Ss manifested greater effort to interpret a sound actively and to place it more specifically in the world of sound. For example, a blind S described a sound of coffee percolating as the sound of "a liquid being sucked through a straw." (Blau 1964: 114)
Affect-attention is a valuable term. Placing interpretations in the world of sound resembles the notion of culture as an organizing principle or "turning chaos into order" (Bauman 1973: 119).
Turner, John le B. 1964. Schizophrenics as judges of vocal expressions of emotional meaning. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 129-142.
A conceptual distinction can be made between two sources of inaccuracy in judging emotions. Insensitivity would be a high absolute or differential treshold for recognition of emotion; distortion would be a tendency to misreport, perhaps even to oneself, originally sensitive perception. The distinction is extremely hard to implement experimentally, but when the study was planned it seemed possible that something might be learned about it if the patterning of errors were studied as well as sheer frequency of "correct" responses, and if paranoids, most often described as sensitive but likely to distort, were separated from other schizophrenics. (Turner 1964: 130)
This distinction seems to hold useful merit for any kind of nonverbal interpretation.
Construction of the principal measuring instrument gave rise to several interesting methodological considerations. The most challenging problem was to obtain suitable recorded samples of speech to constitute the items. Each sample should be such that the "correct" response could be clearly specified - that is, one must have confidence that a particular emotion "really is" expressed. Yet identification of the emotions expressed must not always be easy. Ideally the items should vary over a wide range of difficulty. The ultimate solution may be to collect a large number of extended samples of the natural speech of persons in various situations, so that their emotional states are already known or can be confidently judged from the larger context. From such material one could select sentences or phrases whose wording gives no clue as to the speaker's emotion. These would constitute items for which the question of "correct response" and "genuineness of expression" would already be settled without recourse to expert judgments or item analyses of subjects' responses. Level of difficulty would then be determined empirically, and ultimately a set of items would be assembled having the desirable range of difficulty of identification in a variety of expressed emotions. Until somebody performs this very considerable task, we must be content with feigned emotional expressions, analogous to the posed photographs used in the early studies of facial expressions - and, we must caution ourselves, with an analogous risk that what we are now studying may have more to do with theatrical conventions than with actual emotional expression. (Turner 1964: 131-132)
This is a reasonable doubt.
...another subject, blatantly paranoid but cooperative and highly intelligent, who conscientiously went through the entire test saying, "simulated anger," "simulated fear," etc., and obtained one of the three highest scores in the entire sample of 90 subjects. (Turner 1964: 138)
A maverick test subject.
Among schizophrenics task A performance may be influenced by such factors as general attentiveness (or perhaps more specific attentiveness to persons' voices), cognitive clarity, and tendencies to give distorted or overly guarded reports. Among nonschizophrenics, where the above factors are not important sources of variation, correlations with age and education emerge. It is not surprising if intelligence or sophistication makes a difference, though it would be a sorry comment on task A's validity if it correlated too highly with intellectual or socioeconomic variables or with such things as exposure to television and motion pictures. (Turner 1964: 141)
These factors may not be important in a test situation, but in everyday life, these should be considered.
Davitz, Joel R. 1964e. Minor studies and some hypotheses. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 143-156.
Perhaps interpersonal compatibility requires some minimal level of sensitivity to each other; without this minimal level, it seems likely that conflicts would occur simply as a result of ignorance of each other. On the other hand, too great a sensitivity to each other may interfere with interpersonal functioning; perhaps some "blindness" or "interpersonal repression" of information is necessary for getting along together in daily living. Or, it is also possible that the experiences which led to high and low compatibility may have led to differential sharpening or dulling of sensitivity to expressions of the other person. (Davitz 1964e: 152)
He is here talking about an experiment involving roommates, but this suggestion is comparable to sensory gating (Elkind 1971: 2), preventing recall (Birdwhistell1970: 190-191), and lowering awareness (Key 1980: 22). It should also be pointed out, that alongside selective perception, selective memory too should be kept in mind.
Consider, for example, the finding that people tend to be rather stable in the kinds of errors they make when reacting to vocal expressions of emotional meaning. Most of the research in this area has used a gross estimate of sensitivity based on total correct identifications, but obviously, this represents only one aspect of the overall communication process. People undoubtedly make errors in communication not only in a laboratory situation but also in everyday life. And if these errors are consistent, as they appear to be, one might infer that something about the person determines the particular kinds of errors he makes. If his channels of communication are consistently distorted in one way or another, we can expect his behavior to be similarly distorted. Thus, the investigation of stable patterns of error in communication offers a potentially useful way of investigating various intrapsychic as well as interpersonal phenomena. (Davitz 1964e: 154)
This reminded me of a scene in Lie To Me where a man was unable to correctly identify certain facial expressions because of his social interactions which didn't very much present him these expressions.
Davitz, Joel R. and Steven Mattis 1964. The communication of emotional meaning by metaphor. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 157-176.

Davitz, Joel R. 1964f. Summary and speculations. In: Davitz, Joel R. (ed.) 1964. The communication of emotional meaning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 177-202.
In defining communication, we also had to define "meaning." The meaning of any sign or symbol can be determined in terms of some behavioral response, and just as there are many aspects of behavior, there are many kinds of meaning. We chose a "labeling," or "naming," response on the assumption that the label a listener applied to a vocal expression realistically defined the meaning that expression had for him. If the listener's response agreed with the speaker's intent, we said that the listener was "sensitive to" or "understood" the speaker. In this respect, our research method paralleled everyday communication in so far as labeling behavior is commonly associated with understanding or meaning. But our technique differed from usual interpersonal communication in that the listener was always given a list of emotional names from which to choose his response, and he was required to limit his choice to one category of meaning contained in the list. This certainly differs from the typical everyday situation in which a listener has no explicit list of labels from which to choose his response. At this point, our problem was similar to the psychometric issue of essay versus objective tests; on the one hand, we wanted some standardization of responses to assure reliablity of scoring, but on the other hand, we also wanted to achieve a reasonable degree of versimilitude in respect to everyday communication. Our choice of an objective form of response assured us of scoring reliability, and we had only argued for the versimilitude of our tests on the basis of the results obtained. (Davitz 1964f: 190-191)
This is an important passage. Their understanding of the meaning of behaviour seems to resemble that of Charles W. Morris, although the bibliography doesn't list him (it does Norris, though). This labeling or naming technique should be thought over in the context of culturalization, or the relationship between language and nonverbal communication.
  • Klein, G. S. Cognitive control and motivation. In G. Lindzey (Ed.), Assessment of human motives. New York: Groove, 1960. Pp. 87-118.
  • Langer, Susanne K. Philosophy in a new key. Cambridge: Harvard Univer. Press, 1942. TÜR
  • Langer, Susanne K. Feeling and form. New York: Scribners, 1953. TÜR.


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