Self -presentation is the method acquired by humans to present themselves in the society to control or shape how others think about them. It means expressing oneself and managing behavior in order to create a desired impression. Gender and culture have marked influence on self- presentation which have variable aspects. We will also look at impression management and self-presentation, including a reference to the dramaturgical perspective of the front stage and back stage self. This article will also cover verbal and non-verbal communication in humans, as well as the types of interactions and modes of communication that occur between animals.
Are you more of a visual learner? Check out our online video lectures and start your psychology and sociology course now for free!

medical consultation

Picture: “14296-counseling & psychology 4167” by Texas A&M University Commerce. License: CC BY 2.0

The Role of Gender in the Expression and Detection of Emotion

Studies indicate that there are differences in an individual’s expression and detection of emotion based on their gender. In general, women experience emotion at a more intense level than men. Their expression of emotion is more intense and conveyed more openly than men. A study by Kring& Gordon (1998) demonstrated that there were differences in autonomic arousal and emotional expression between men and women while they were watching emotional films.

With regards to detection of emotion, women are able to read emotions better than men, including facial expressions and non-verbal cues.

It is not clear why there are differences in emotional experiences between men and women. It has been suggested that they may be a reflection of the historical roles of men and women. Men have had the role of needing to compete and fight, and therefore, soft emotions are avoided to prevent displaying any weakness. Women traditionally have the role of being the nurturer and caretaker. As such, women tend to be associated with emotions such as love, warmth, happiness, and sympathy.

Society discourages women from expressing anger or negative emotions while men are in an advantage to express anger and anger words. Moreover, women practice relation oriented speech more positively than men. According to an analysis by Leaper and Ayres( 2007), women use more question-based speech whereas men use task-oriented, assertive speech. These associations are also similar to an evolutionary perspective. It would not have been evolutionarily favorable if men were more emotional when they needed to fight, defend territory and compete for mates.

Another theory that is used to account for these gender differences may be related to upbringing. Studies have revealed that parents tend to discuss feelings a more with girls than they do with boys. In doing so, girls learn how to express their emotions. On the other hand, boys grow up learning that emotional weaknesses 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. However, there are elements of emotional expression and recognition that are universal or 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.

At the same time, there are also differences in an emotional expression between culturesDisplay rules refer to the norms of a culture or subculture that relate to the appropriateness of emotional expression. For instance, social harmony is at highest priority than individual in Asian culture whereas American and European cultures focus more -on individual self- promotion.

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

Cultural variation also exists with regards to detection of emotion. In a study by Maksumoto & Ekman (1989), they found that there were differences in the interpretation of some facial expressions amongst people from Japan and North America. While there was a consensus in the detection of facial expressions displaying happiness, sadness, and surprise, there were disagreements when it came to faces showing disgust, anger and fear.

People from different cultures also differ in their detection of emotion related to the tone of voice used. For example, in a study by Van Bezooijen, Otto & Heena, (1983), individuals from Taiwan were found to be better at recognizing voices with a sad tone, compared to Dutch individuals who were better are detecting happy voices.

Impression Management

Impression management refers to the strategies people employ in an attempt to form desired impressions about themselves, friends, ideas, or events to audiences. It refers to a broad set of behavior deployed to control the presentation of information about oneself. When referring to the control of information to create impressions about the self, it is called self-presentation.

As impressions influence others perception, judgment and treatment towards them, individuals may behave in ways that create certain impressions. These perceptions may also affect how people perceive themselves, contributing to the incentive to create our own impressions.

There are different strategies of impression management that individuals employ. These strategies can be broadly categorized into:

  • Assertive strategies – involve active behaviors carried out to shape impressions
  • Defensive strategies – include avoidance and self-handicapping

Front Stage Versus Back Stage Self

The dramaturgical perspective, conceived by the 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 the observer. Just as an actor controls their performance on stage before an audience, it reflects an individual’s conscious decision to show certain aspects of the self and conceal other aspects.

The front stage reflects the role an individual plays and the impression he wants to create. Whereas the backstage is free from the norms and expectations that influence behavior in the front stage. As a result, we let our guards down and be ourselves. It is also in the backstage that we prepare for the front stage.

Verbal and Non-verbal Communication

Verbal communication occurs between people using language, which can be oral or written. Language is guided by syntactic rules and also by rules of conversation. Words may be spoken, signed or written. Therefore, the verbal mode of communication may involve acoustic, visual and tactile channels.In addition, Verbal communication helps to clarify misunderstandings and providing missed information.

Verbal communication is what sets humans apart from other animals. The communicative functions of language include a referential function, which involves reference to external objects and events, and placing them in time and place; a social function, to establish a communication channel, ensures it works and that people are on good terms with each other; and an effective function, which involves expressing inner emotions without necessarily addressing a listener.

Humans are also able to communicate without the use of words with nonverbal communication, which is an important means of sharing information. Non-verbal communication relies on a variety of unspoken cues and signals including facial expressions, gestures, body language, posture, touch, physical distance, intonation and non-verbal vocalizations such as sighing.

Non-verbal communication serves as expressions of emotions and attitudes. Many expressions are used to form and maintain social bonds, such as smiling and to demonstrate a synchrony in the interaction, by mirroring the expressions of others. Non-verbal communication plays a more important role in cooperation than do verbal expressions. Non-verbal expressions are also important during a normal conversation. While a person is talking using words and sentences, their tone of voice, gaze, facial expressions, and gestures also convey relevant information.

Apart from social and affective functions, non-verbal communication has an important referential function too, such as when you direct someone’s attention to another object or event, by pointing, for example.

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

Animal Signals and Communication

Animal communication refers to the sharing of information between animals. There are a number of modes of communication that animals use. Different types of signals are necessary for optimal communication of different messages in different environments.

Major communication modes amid animals include chemical signals, tactile signals, audible signals, and visual signals

Chemical signals

Chemical signals are those that are relayed by smell and taste and are used by many animals. Chemical signals are particularly useful in dark environments when 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 tactful secretion to attract the opposite sex, raise an alarm, mark a food trail or trigger other complex behaviors.

Pheromones are molecules that contain carbon chain backbones. These molecules mainly differ in size (molecular weight) and polarity, which determines their function. Airborne pheromones are usually smaller, such as a moth sex attractant. Pheromones that linger in the environment tend to be bigger and more polar, like a scent that serves to mark a territory. This is because more energy is required to evaporate higher molecular weight molecules, while polarity enables molecules to stick to one another.

Tactile signals

Tactile signals refer to touching as a means of communication. This is especially useful in situations when animals are close together, and also when a light is not available. It is also helpful when noise impedes sounds or might lure predators. However, the need for proximity serves as a limitation, making tactile signals not useful for distant communication or in the presence of obstacles.

Tactile signals play an important role in affiliative behaviors in mammal groups. As well as its role in social and emotional interactions, touch is 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 from 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 able to use the ground as a medium to transmit sound, because of its ability to make the soil vibrate.

Most animals have special structures in their bodies that they use to make a sound. Some create sound by slapping, drumming or tapping a resonant substrate. 

Visual signals

Visual signals are conveyed very quickly, at the speed of light. Light availability greatly aids visual signals. Air and water also transmit visual signals. However, with water, increasing depth leads to less light availability as water absorbs light. Water also absorbs red, yellow and orange wavelengths, so that these colors are not useful with increased depth.

Visual signals include gestures, facial expressions, body postures and coloration.

There are different types of visual signals amid animals, including:

  • Patterns and color on the surfaces of animals (e.g. the colorfulness of reef fish is 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)

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

Thus animal signals are useful for animals to obtain mates, establish dominance or defending territory, coordinating social relations, food, prevention against predators and caring for young ones.

Review Questions

The correct answers can be found below the references.

1. In the dramaturgical perspective, what does the back stage refer to?

  1. Where we keep our emotions repressed.
  2. Where we play a role to present an impression of ourselves.
  3. Where we can let our guards down and be ourselves.
  4. Where we get dressed for the front stage.
  5. Where actors audition for the front stage.

2. What are pheromones?

  1. Pheromones are hormones that drive sexual development.
  2. Pheromones are released on in animals that are nocturnal.
  3. Pheromones are natural molecules that contribute to visual signals in animals.
  4. Pheromones are molecules that act as chemical signals of communication.
  5. Pheromones are natural molecules that do not linger in the environment.

3. Which of the following is not an example of non-verbal communication?

  1. Writing the word yes on paper.
  2. Nodding your head.
  3. Showing a look of disgust on your face.
  4. Smiling during a conversation.
  5. Using eye contact during a conversation.
Do you want to learn even more?
Start now with 1,000+ free video lectures
given by award-winning educators!
Yes, let's get started!
No, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Register to leave a comment and get access to everything Lecturio offers!

Free accounts include:

  • 1,000+ free medical videos
  • 2,000+ free recall questions
  • iOS/Android App
  • Much more

Already registered? Login.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *