Positive feeling, negative meaning: Visualizing the mental representations of in-group and out-group smiles
SourcePLoS One, 11, 3, (2016), article e0151230
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectBehaviour Change and Well-being
Even though smiles are seen as universal facial expressions, research shows that there exist various kinds of smiles (i.e., affiliative smiles, dominant smiles). Accordingly, we suggest that there also exist various mental representations of smiles. Which representation is employed in cognition may depend on social factors, such as the smiling person's group membership: Since in-group members are typically seen as more benevolent than outgroup members, in-group smiles should be associated with more benevolent social meaning than those conveyed by out-group members. We visualized in-group and out-group smiles with reverse correlation image classification. These visualizations indicated that mental representations of in-group smiles indeed express more benevolent social meaning than those of out-group smiles. The affective meaning of these visualized smiles was not influenced by group membership. Importantly, the effect occurred even though participants were not instructed to attend to the nature of the smile, pointing to an automatic association between group membership and intention.
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