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Self-presentation and Interacting with Others

Self-presentation is a method acquired by humans to present aspects of ourselves to society and to control or shape how others think about us. It entails managing our self-expression and behavior in order to create a desired impression. There are many aspects that may affect how an individual expresses themselves. In particular, gender Gender Gender Dysphoria and culture have a marked influence on how people express and perceive emotions and certain aspects of nonverbal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence.

Last updated: Aug 12, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

The Role of Gender in the Expression and Detection of Emotion

Studies indicate that an individual’s expression and detection of emotion may be based on their sex Sex The totality of characteristics of reproductive structure, functions, phenotype, and genotype, differentiating the male from the female organism. Gender Dysphoria. In general, women experience emotion at a more intense level than men. Similarly, their expression of emotion may be more intense and conveyed more openly compared to men. With regard to the detection of emotion, women are also able to read emotions, including facial expressions and verbal cues Verbal cues Attentiveness to and genuine interest in the patient’s recollection of their medical history. Clinician–Patient Relationship, better than men are. Indeed, a study by Kring and Gordon (1998) found differences in autonomic arousal and emotional expression between men and women while watching emotional films.

It is unclear why there are differences in emotional experiences between men and women, but it has been suggested that this may be a reflection of the historical roles of men and women. Historically, men had to compete and fight; therefore, “soft” emotions were avoided to prevent displaying any weakness. Women traditionally were nurturers and caretakers. As such, emotions such as love, warmth, happiness, and sympathy are often attributed to women. Additionally, society may discourage women from expressing anger or negative emotions, whereas it can be an advantage for men to express anger.

Moreover, women practice relationship-oriented speech more so than men do. According to an analysis by Leaper and Ayres (2007), women use more question-based speech, whereas men use more task-oriented, assertive speech. These associations are similar to the evolutionary perspective. It may not have been evolutionarily favorable for men to be more emotional when they needed to fight, defend territory, and compete for mates.

Another theory used to account for gender Gender Gender Dysphoria differences is related to upbringing. Studies have shown that parents tend to discuss feelings more frequently with girls than with boys. Because of this, girls learn how to express their emotions while boys grow up learning that conveyances of emotional vulnerability, such as crying and feeling scared, are not “manly.”

The Role of Culture in the Expression and Detection of Emotion

Culture is another important factor that shapes emotional experience.

Emotional display rules refer to the norms of a culture or subculture that relate to the appropriateness of emotional expression. These principles guide how, when, and where individuals express emotions, and to what extent. For instance, individuals in Asian cultures (which promote interdependence) often display neutral expressions, particularly when experiencing negative emotions. Conversely, individuals from American and European cultures (which promote individualism) may be more emotionally expressive.

The meaning of emotional gestures differs across cultures as well. For example, the middle finger is considered “the rude finger” in many English-speaking countries (such as the United States, England, and Australia). However, in Middle Eastern countries, the thumb is considered to be rude.

Cultural variation also exists with regard to the detection of emotion. Maksumoto and Ekman (1989) found that there were differences in the interpretation of some facial expressions between people from Japan and North America. Although there was a consensus on the detection of facial expressions displaying happiness, sadness, or surprise, there were disagreements when it came to faces showing disgust, anger, or fear.

People from different cultures also differ in how they detect emotion based on tone of voice. For example, in a study by Van Bezooijen, Otto, and Heena (1983), individuals from Taiwan were found to be better at recognizing voices with a sad tone compared, while Dutch individuals were better at detecting happy voices.

However, there are elements of emotional expression and recognition that are innate. For example, cross-cultural studies have shown that there are six facial expressions that are universal to all cultures: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust.

Impression Management

Impression management refers to the strategies people use to influence perceptions about themselves, their friends, ideas, or events so that others form positive judgments of them. It encompasses a broad set of behaviors deployed to regulate and control the presentation of information about oneself.

There are different strategies of impression management that individuals use. These strategies can be broadly categorized as two types:

  • Assertive strategies involve active behaviors carried out to shape impressions, which can include:
    • Self-promotion
    • Ingratiation
  • Defensive strategies are more reactive and can include:
    • Avoidance of threatening situations
    • Self-handicapping (e.g., making an excuse in advance in case you do poorly)

Front-stage versus Backstage Self

This dramaturgical perspective, conceived by the Canadian-American sociologist Erving Goffman, uses the metaphor of life as a theater to map social interactions. The terms front stage and backstage refer to the manufactured social reality that individuals present to observers. Just as actors control their performances on stage before an audience, individuals make conscious decisions whether to show or conceal certain aspects of themselves to others.

The front stage reflects the role an individual plays (and the impression they want to create) and is influenced by norms and expectations. On the other hand Hand The hand constitutes the distal part of the upper limb and provides the fine, precise movements needed in activities of daily living. It consists of 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges, as well as numerous muscles innervated by the median and ulnar nerves. Hand: Anatomy, the backstage is free from such norms and expectations. As a result, we are free to let our guard down and be ourselves. It is also in the backstage that we prepare for the front stage.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communications

Verbal and nonverbal communications coexist with each other and provide a direct effect on people’s perceptions and exchanges.

Verbal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence is the transmission of a message between people using language, both oral and written. Language is guided by syntactic rules and by rules of conversation. Verbal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence is what sets humans apart from other animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic. The communicative functions of language include:

  • Referential function: involves reference to external objects and events, and places them in time and place
  • Social function: establishes a communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence channel, ensures that this channel works, and ensures that people are on good terms with one another
  • Effective function: involves expressing inner emotions without necessarily addressing a listener

Nonverbal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence relies on a variety of unspoken cues and signals, including: 

  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Body language
  • Posture
  • Touch
  • Physical distance
  • Intonation
  • Nonverbal vocalizations (such as sighing)

This type of communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence serves as an expression of emotions and attitudes. Many such expressions are used to form and maintain social bonds (such as smiling) and to demonstrate synchrony in interaction (such as mirroring Mirroring Psychotherapy the expressions of others). Nonverbal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence plays a more important role in cooperation than verbal expression does. In addition to social and affective functions, nonverbal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence has an important referential function, such as directing someone’s attention Attention Focusing on certain aspects of current experience to the exclusion of others. It is the act of heeding or taking notice or concentrating. Psychiatric Assessment to another object or event by pointing.

Animal Signals and Communication

Animal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence refers to the sharing of information between animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic. There are a number of modes of communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence that animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic use. Different types of signals are necessary for optimal communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence of different messages in different environments. Animal signals can be used to obtain mates, establish dominance, defend territory, or coordinate social relations, food-gathering, protection against predators, and care for the young. Major communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence modes among animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic include chemical, tactile, audible, and visual signals.

Chemical signals

Chemical signals are those that are relayed by smell Smell The sense of smell, or olfaction, begins in a small area on the roof of the nasal cavity, which is covered in specialized mucosa. From there, the olfactory nerve transmits the sensory perception of smell via the olfactory pathway. This pathway is composed of the olfactory cells and bulb, the tractus and striae olfactoriae, and the primary olfactory cortex and amygdala. Olfaction: Anatomy and taste. They are particularly useful in dark environments, where visual or audible signals are less reliable. 

A pheromone is a chemical signal that is produced to transmit information within a species. Pheromones may be secreted to attract the opposite sex Sex The totality of characteristics of reproductive structure, functions, phenotype, and genotype, differentiating the male from the female organism. Gender Dysphoria, raise an alarm, mark a food trail, or trigger Trigger The type of signal that initiates the inspiratory phase by the ventilator Invasive Mechanical Ventilation other complex behaviors. These molecules mainly differ in size (molecular weight) and polarity, which can determine their function. Airborne pheromones (e.g., a moth sex Sex The totality of characteristics of reproductive structure, functions, phenotype, and genotype, differentiating the male from the female organism. Gender Dysphoria attractant) are usually smaller. Pheromones that linger in the environment (e.g., a scent that serves to mark territory) tend to be larger and more polar.

Tactile signals

Tactile signals refer to touch as a means of communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence. They are especially useful in situations when animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic are close together and light is not available. They are also helpful when noise impedes sound or might lure predators. However, the need for proximity serves as a limitation, and tactile signals are not useful for distant communication Communication The exchange or transmission of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs between individuals or groups. Decision-making Capacity and Legal Competence or in the presence of obstacles.

Tactile signals play an important role in affiliative behaviors in mammal groups and, conversely, can be an aspect of aggressive behaviors. Tactile signals also function to convey information about the proximity of environmental features, such as food and predators.

Audible signals

Audible signals are effective in dark environments. The distance an audible signal can travel varies depending on the medium and the wavelength of the sound. The ability to make a material vibrate influences how an animal can use vibrations to communicate. For example, an elephant is a very large animal and is able to use the ground as a medium to transmit sound by making the soil vibrate. Most animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic have special structures in their bodies that they can use to make a sound. Some create sound by slapping, drumming, or tapping a resonant substrate Substrate A substance upon which the enzyme acts. Basics of Enzymes. 

Visual signals

Visual signals are conveyed very quickly—at the speed of light. The availability of light is necessary for visual signals, which can be transmitted through air and water. However, with water, increasing depth leads to less light availability. Water also absorbs red, yellow, and orange wavelengths, so these colors are not useful in areas of increased depth.

Visual signals include gestures, facial expressions, body postures, and coloration. There are different types of visual signals among animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic, including the following:

  • Patterns and colors on the surfaces of animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic (e.g., the bright colors of reef fish FISH A type of in situ hybridization in which target sequences are stained with fluorescent dye so their location and size can be determined using fluorescence microscopy. This staining is sufficiently distinct that the hybridization signal can be seen both in metaphase spreads and in interphase nuclei. Chromosome Testing used to promote their dominance and sexual status)
  • Movement (e.g., fiddler crabs waving their large signaling claws in the air)
  • Light production (e.g., fireflies, deep-sea animals Animals Unicellular or multicellular, heterotrophic organisms, that have sensation and the power of voluntary movement. Under the older five kingdom paradigm, animalia was one of the kingdoms. Under the modern three domain model, animalia represents one of the many groups in the domain eukaryota. Cell Types: Eukaryotic versus Prokaryotic)

Visual signals can be combined, such as when a peacock spreads out its tail to display the vivid pattern and color of its feathers to attract a peahen.

References

  1. Breed, MD, & Moore, J. (2015). Animal behavior. Academic Press.
  2. Cohen, L, Pooley, JA, Clarke-Stewart, A, Gouldthorp, B, Provost, S, & Roy, EJ. (2013). Psychology: An international discipline in context.
  3. Cole, NL. (2016). Goffman’s front stage and back stage behavior. http://sociology.about.com/od/Sociology101/fl/Goffmans-Front-Stage-and-Back-Stage-Behavior.htm
  4. Crossman, A. (2016). The presentation of self in everyday life. http://sociology.about.com/od/Works/a/Presentation-Of-Self-Everyday-Life.htm
  5. DeLamater, JD, & Ward, A. (Eds.). (2006). Handbook of social psychology. Springer.
  6. Håkansson, G, & Westander, J. (2013). Communication in humans and other animals (Vol. 4). John Benjamins Publishing.
  7. Schlenker, BR, & Pontari, BA. (2000). The strategic control of information: Impression management and self-presentation in daily life.
  8. Westen, D, Burton, LJ, & Kowalski, R. (2006). Psychology: Australian and New Zealand edition. John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.
  9. Kring, AM, & Gordon, AH. (1998). Sex differences in emotion: Expression, experience, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(3), 686–703. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.74.3.686
  10. Leaper, C, & Ayres, MM. (2007). A meta-analytic review of gender variations in adults’ language use: Talkativeness, affiliative speech, and assertive speech. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11(4), 328–363. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868307302221
  11. Matsumoto, D, & Ekman, P. (1989). American-Japanese cultural differences in intensity ratings of facial expressions of emotion. Motivation and Emotion, 13(2), 143–157. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992959
  12. Van Bezooijen, R, Otto, SA, & Heenan, TA. (1983). Recognition of vocal expression of emotion. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 14:387–406. doi: 10.1177/0022002183014004001

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