Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Emotion display rules

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Emotion display rules:
What are display rules, how are they developed, and how do they vary?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Emotion display rules are applicable in every social context and culture, however, there are several factors which influence how these rules are developed and vary. The development of display rules begins with little understanding of what emotions are, thus infants typically will model the facial expressions of those around them. During childhood, children begin to develop an understanding of how emotions work, and how displays of specific emotions can help or hinder their relationships with others, peers, family members and consumption of television and other media sources assist in the child's development of display rules. As one reaches adulthood, emotion display rules are typically fully developed, but utilised in the workforce to facilitate a certain work environment and reach goals. There are several variations in what constitutes acceptable displays of emotion. The influence of social context plays a large role in the variation of display rules,[grammar?] during an individual's upbringing, the emotions which are discussed and displayed due to being viewed as acceptable by family members will influence how an individual perceives the display of certain emotions. An individual will vary in their display of emotions depending on their peer group, as they may feel that they need to display emotions which are deemed acceptable to avoid rejection or ostracism. Gendered emotion display rules are apparent in most societies,[grammar?] typically, it is considered the norm for men to display emotions which are associated with power, whilst women are expected to display emotions associated with warmth,[grammar?] an individual may feel the need to conform to these rules to avoid rejection or judgement. The Structural Model of Appraisal explains how people evaluate the situation they are in [missing something?] how they should cope. Whilst [grammar?] Schachter and Singer's Two-Factor Theory explains how physiological arousal and cognitive evaluation combine to form an emotional state, and how an individual may choose not to express this depending display rules. Lastly, culture impacts what emotion display rules are considered acceptable,[grammar?] there are vast differences between how individualistic and collectivist cultures view displays of emotion and why this is. There has been significant research surrounding this topic regarding development and variation which is discussed in this book chapter.

Focus questions:

  • What are emotion display rules?
  • How do they work?
  • How do they vary?
  • How are they developed?

Case Study

Sarah recently moved from Japan to Australia as she has accepted a job as a nurse. Sarah's boss has mentioned to her that it is important to express sympathy, warmth and compassion to all of the patients, as this will increase the likelihood of them being satisfied with their care. At times Sarah finds this request difficult as some of the patients' cases are quite severe and dismal. Sarah has noticed that her co-workers and new friends in Australia are also quite open when expressing their emotions; she finds this abnormal as her family and peers would rarely discuss emotions, she finds that they talk about how their emotions are personally affecting them but not the people around them. However, she has also noticed that her male friends are much less likely to talk so openly and in-depth about their emotions in comparison to her female friends. Sarah feels like she has a lot to learn in terms of how to adapt to this new environment, and she feels like she needs re-learn her emotion display rule knowledge.

Definition of Emotion display rules[edit | edit source]

Emotion display rules indicate the need to manage the appearance of emotions in a particular situation. To do this, an individual must integrate previously learned knowledge about facial expressions, situations, and societal norms. The goal of an emotional display rule can vary between being self-oriented, which facilitates prosocial relationships, or rule-oriented, which focuses on the preservation of societal expectations. Typically, engagement in display rules is defined by both the internal experience of an emotion and how the expression of emotion is modified; however, emotion display rules do not forbid nor demand an emotion to be expressed, rather the aim is to specify adjustments in the intensity of displayed emotion. Ekman and Friesen (1969) Identified six emotion display rule management strategies:

  • Express - showing one's emotions without modification; for example, smiling and laughing when around friends.
  • Qualify - The emotion is expressed, but a smile is added to comment on the feeling; for example, when feeling sad, adding a smile and stating "I will not cry again" will influence the type of thoughts one experiences and communicates.
  • Amplification - expressing more emotion than is felt; for example, amplification of sadness at a funeral.
  • De-amplification - partial suppression of the emotion; for example, hearing some bad news and experiencing sadness, but being in a work environment which expects you to maintain a content demeanour in order to complete tasks.
  • Neutralise - the extreme form of de-amplification where no emotions are shown; for example, being bullied and feeling scared, but not expressing this emotion for fear that this will increase the bullying.
  • Mask - hiding the felt emotion while expressing an unfelt emotion at the same time; for example, being friendly to an opponent after losing a sports game.

How are Emotion display rules developed?[edit | edit source]

Age is the primary factor which influences how emotion display rules are developed; infants' display of emotion is largely based on modelling from their parents and other family members. As an individual reaches childhood, modelling is also applied but is extended to peers and the consumption of media. In adulthood, display rules are usually applied in workforces, especially in fields where interaction with others is necessary.

Infancy[edit | edit source]

Infants use facial and vocal displays to express their emotions, [grammar?] early parent-infant observation suggests that young infants are exposed to modelling and learning conditions through face-to-face interaction with their parents, [grammar?] this environment allows for the development of display rules to begin. Zander-Malatesta and Haviland (1982) examined early changes in infant expressiveness and the mother's role in socialising infant expression. Participants were sixty mothers and their young infants, infants were divided into two age groups, thirty three-month-olds and thirty six-month-olds. Each mother and child were videotaped during play and reunion following a brief separation. Both mother's and their infant's facial expressions were coded using the max muscular components method, [grammar?] the mother's verbal response to their infant's facial expressions was also analysed. The study found that infants at both ages displayed a wide range of expressions, and would change depending on the emotions expressed by the mother, either through facial expressions or tone of voice. The results make it apparent that modelling and socialisation from parents in infancy affect the way that emotional display rules are developed. Whilst this study supports the idea that infants observe their mother's facial expressions to develop their own display rules, future research should examine whether other family members influence the development as well.

Childhood[edit | edit source]

File:Book chapter photo one.jpg
Figure 1. Children socialising by playing on the swings together.

A child's social environment will influence how their display rules are developed. Children will learn about display rules through social interactions (see Figure .) and from evaluating the consequences of their social behaviours. For example, if a child believes that emotional expressions are synchronous with internal feelings, due to social interactions in the past, they will believe that they must always display their emotions to others, whilst also believing that others displays of emotion are an accurate portrayal of their internal emotions as well (Banerjee, 1997). Saarni, (1979), presented 6, 8, and 10-year-olds with stories where one character was engaged in a conflict with another character and was then motivated to hide an emotion. Once the story was finished, children were asked to select the main character's facial expression from a several choices, and then asked to justify their selection. Saarni found that the eldest children could offer display rule justifications, whereas the younger children could only identify the concept of display rules once they were explained. This study supports the idea that display rules will develop as the child ages, through socialisation, by watching others, having indirect or direct instruction from parents and/or siblings, and via messages portrayed by characters in stories, television and other media. As this study was conducted in the 1970s, it would be valuable to re-create this study in a modern-day setting, as the influence of technology and children's engagement with them could influence the development of their emotion display rules.

Adulthood[edit | edit source]

File:Book chapter photo two.jpg
Figure 2. Nurse sitting with patient and providing care.

Usually, adults will conform to the emotional display rules that society deems acceptable. However, they will continue to develop their emotional display rules by discovering new ways to hide, express or cope with emotions. Display rules shape the emotional displays of employees in ways that facilitate the attainment of organisational objectives. The need for employees to express positive emotions and suppress any negative emotions is common in workforces such as healthcare, education and customer service, employees who work together in these fields usually share display rule beliefs, as they are considered to be in-role job requirements by their supervisors. For example, nurses are expected to express compassion, concern and empathy towards their clients (see Figure 2), whilst also maintaining a level of professional detachment. Therefore the socialised norms created by the workplace will influence the emotions a nurse displays towards their client (Diendorff et al., 2011). Diendorff et al, (2011) studied a sample of registered nurses who worked in different units of a hospital and were measured on unit-level emotional display rules, emotion regulation strategies, burnout, and job satisfaction. The study concluded that nurses who worked in the same unit shared the same emotional display rules regarding what emotions should and should not be expressed when working with clients to offer the most effective and satisfactory care to the clients. While this study was sound in demonstrating how emotional display rules are formed in workplaces, it would be beneficial to conduct further research regarding how these display rules influence individual well-being and behaviour.

Take a quiz

What did Saarni's study find?

Older children could offer display rule justifications.
Younger children could offer display rule justifications.
Older children could identify display rules once explained.
Neither age groups could identify display rules.

In some jobs, the suppression of ------ emotions and the expression of ------- emotions is important.

Positive and Negative.
Negative and Positive.
Powerful and Passive.
Passive and Powerful.

In Zander-Malesta and Haviland's study, the mothers ------- changed the infant's emotional expression?

Facial expression and laughter.
Singing and volume of voice.
Facial expression and tone of voice.

Theories[edit | edit source]

Both Lazarus' structural model of appraisal and Schachter and Singer's two-factor theory proposed sound explanations regarding how emotions are developed, and how they influence emotion display rules.

Structural model of appraisal[edit | edit source]

The Structural Model of Appraisal assists in explaining the relationship between appraisals and the emotions they elicit. This model allows for individual components of the appraisal process to be determined for each emotion, and the evaluation of how and where the appraisal processes differ for different emotions and individuals. The appraisal component is broken up into two parts, primary and secondary appraisal:

  1. the primary appraisal occurs when an individual evaluates how important the situation is to their well-being
  2. the secondary appraisal involve individuals evaluating their resources and options for coping with the environment they are in.

Once the individual has appraised and evaluated the environment they are in, this will elicit one's coping potential, which is used to handle an emotional experience, this is done through either problem or emotion-focused coping:

  1. problem-focused refers to one's ability to take action and change a situation to make it more congruent with one's emotions
  2. emotion-focused refers to one's ability to handle or adjust to the situation. The emotions people experience is influenced by how they perceive their ability to perform emotion- focused coping (Lazarus, 1991).

Apropos to display rules, during primary appraisal, an individual may evaluate whether expressing the emotion they are feeling will be beneficial to their well-being; if not, once they are engaged in secondary appraisal they will have to evaluate how to cope, [grammar?] if they can not change the situation they are in, it would be beneficial for the individual to engage in emotion-focused coping by masking any unacceptable emotions they may be feeling to adjust to the situation. For example, if an individual with anxiety is in an environment in which they begin to feel anxious (sweaty palms, racing heart, dry throat), they will thus appraise the situation as threatening and harmful to their well-being, however, they cannot leave the environment and their display of anxious emotions is deemed unacceptable, they have to engage in emotion-focused coping by suppressing their anxious emotions and expressing a calm demeanour.

Schachter and Singer's Two-factor theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. Diagram of Schachter and Singer's Two-Factor Theory of Emotion.

Schachter and Singer's Two-Factor Theory provides an insight into how an individual perceives and evaluates emotions (see Figure 3). The theory states that perception of emotion is composed of two parts, physiological arousal and emotional label for the arousal. The physiological component determines the intensity of the emotional state, whilst the cognition determines which emotion will be experienced, [grammar?] both of these components are needed for an emotional state to occur. This occurrence happens in two ways, in every day emotional states and more atypical ones; in every day, events are appraised in an emotional way which triggers physiological arousal, thus being attributed automatically to the eliciting conditions; in contrast, if an individual experiences atypical unexplained arousal, such as consumption of drugs, sleep deprivation, a search process is set into motion until an emotional source is identified and emotion can be experienced (Reisenzein, 1983) Regarding how this relates to emotion display rules, individuals may experience physiological arousal, which thus elicits an emotional state, but decide to label it as a different emotion to present themselves differently. The evaluation and expression of emotion will depend on the individual and the social environment they are in. For example, if an individual is presented with some frustrating news, physiological arousal is initially elicited (muscle tensing up, heart racing) and the individual labels this as anger, however, the individual may decide not to display this intensity of anger due to the social environment.

How do Emotional display Rules Vary?[edit | edit source]

The variation of emotional display rules depends on several factors: the influence of social context, including family, peer groups and gender norms, as well as the influence of individualistic or collectivist cultures.

Influence of Social Context[edit | edit source]

The influence of the social environment is a crucial factor in the variation of emotional display rules, particularly in children. A child's observation of how a family member responds to emotional stimuli can lead to them adopting similar behaviours and thus obtaining similar display rules. In relation to the influence of peers, individuals will become aware of display rules which are deemed acceptable in a given group or setting, therefore an individual will vary the control and expression of their emotions depending on whom they are interacting with. Furthermore, gender stereotypes concerning displays of emotion, once internalised by an individual, may be exacerbated or reduced depending on interactions with others and the particular social environment.

Family[edit | edit source]

Individuals vary in what display roles they deem acceptable due to the influences around them, [grammar?] parents play a large role in determining how an individuals views and displays certain emotions. If a parent talks to their children about verbal labels for their inner experiences, antecedents of other peoples[grammar?] emotional expression and about the consequences of their expressive displays, the parent will provide their children with an ability to form decisions about their emotion display rules. In addition, an individual's knowledge of emotion display rules will vary due to their parents having goals and values for raising children, which include ways of appraising emotional events as well as display rules (Von Salisch, 2001). Along with verbal influence, modelling is also influential in the variation of display rules, as behaviour and display rules can be adopted through behaviours presented by family members in an individual's social environment. Jones et al (1998) conducted a study which examined the variation of display rule knowledge and its association with family expressiveness. The display rule knowledge of 121 six and nine-year-old children was assessed using hypothetical scenarios concerning facial expression and internal feelings while also recording maternal reports of family emotional climates. The study found that negative types of emotional expressiveness within the family were associated with a child's display rule knowledge, as negative-dominant familial environments enhanced display rules with self-protective goals and detract from the development of prosocial display rule knowledge. The study did not discuss the different family units these children had come from, further research should examine whether different family units (eg. same-sex parents, single parents) also influence the variation of display rules.

Peers[edit | edit source]

Peer groups tend to create a culture with norms and values, [grammar?] among them a shared appraisal of emotion display rules. People have a desire to fit in with those around them, thus an individual may feel the need to conform to the expected emotion display rules to avoid rejection or ostracism. Mcdowell and Park (2001) conducted a study which examined the different types of display rule knowledge and their relation to a child's social competence; a sample of sixty-one eight and nine-year-old American children were tested on their knowledge of display rules for positive and negative emotions, as well as the different reasons for endorsing the use of display rules. The study found that children who endorsed more display rule use for both negative, as well as positive emotions, were rated as more socially competent by both teachers and peers. Thus it is clear that, in a peer environment, children who expressed acceptable display rules when interacting with peers gained peer acceptance. The positive reinforcement which peer acceptance brings comforts the child, as they are aware that by expressing emotions which are deemed acceptable, they have avoided rejection and/ or ostracism. It would be interesting for future research to examine if these findings would be replicated in a cohort of adults.

Gender[edit | edit source]

There are numerous stereotypes regarding what emotions are acceptable to display depending on gender. Women are expected to be more emotionally expressive, and less aggressive than men; women are also believed to smile more, and to express more warmth and affection, whilst also expressing more fear, vulnerability and sadness[factual?]. In contrast, men are expected to be more aggressive and express anger, and disregard expressing emotions which may appear to make them 'weak' such as fear or vulnerability[factual?]. These stereotypes mirror and construct the reality of gender differences in emotion (Brody, 2010). An individual may feel they need to conform to the display rules deemed acceptable for their gender, as they fear that if they do not they will be ridiculed and rejected.

Gendered emotion display rules are visible in workforces, [grammar?] for example, a large number of flight attendants are female, and women in this field are expected to display warmth and enthusiasm whilst suppressing any negative emotions. In contrast, debt collecting is considered to be a male-dominated field, and men display negative emotions such as detachment, anger or irritation, whilst suppressing any positive emotions such as sympathy. Simpson et al (2004) aimed to establish whether men and women report conforming to different display rules in the social environment of the workforce. Participants were recent graduates who had begun work in human resource jobs, [grammar?] the survey examined the display of emotions and how they vary depending on gender. The findings concluded that women more often conform to feminine display rules which require the suppression of negative emotions and the expression of positive emotions. Men also reported adopting masculine display rules which require the suppression of positive emotions and the expression of negative emotions. This study supports the idea that regardless of what job field an individual is in, there are differences in the type of emotions deemed acceptable.

Your Turn

Think about what your emotion display rules are and how your social context has influenced them. Do you think you family and peers have influenced what emotions you consider 'acceptable' to express? What about your gender?

Cultural Context[edit | edit source]

Culture can be defined as the shared elements that lay out the standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating, communicating, and acting among those who share a language, a historic period and a geographic location (Lim, 2016). Culture shapes the way people express their emotions in certain situations, [grammar?] Table 1 describes the differences between how individuals view the display of emotions in individualistic and collectivist cultures[factual?].

Individualistic Cultures Collectivist Cultures
Individuals are considered the most important social unit, partnered with this is the promotion of uniqueness and autonomy. Greater focus on groups, contexts and relationships.
Emotions are viewed as important personal experiences unique to the individual and their expression is the individuals[grammar?] right. Personal feelings are considered relatively unnecessary in comparison to their interpersonal meaning
Expressions of 'powerful' emotions are considered to be an expression of self-assertion and are deemed acceptable.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Emotion display rules have a significant role in many aspects[vague]. As people typically want to avoid rejection, emotion display rules provide individuals with knowledge regarding what emotions are deemed acceptable to display when dealing with other people, allowing for the facilitation of prosocial relationships and peer acceptance. Associated with this is influenced one's culture has on display rules [awkward expression?], in order to avoid rejection and ostracism, one must conform to the emotional display rules prescribed to their culture; it is clear that there are differences between emotion display rules in individualistic and collectivist cultures, as there is large focus on the uniqueness and personal experience of emotions in individualistic cultures, in contrast to collectivist cultures where there is a focus on group cohesion, and individual emotions are not considered necessary for this cohesion[very long sentence!]. In order for an individual to gain knowledge involving emotion display rules, an individual must acquire information regarding acceptable emotions to express as they develop; through modelling as an infant, social interaction and media consumption as a child, and workplace environments as an adult. There is variation in what emotions one deems acceptable, depending on what emotions are expressed in an individual's family unit will influence which emotion display rules they follow, and thus what emotions they express; as mentioned before, peer group values surrounding emotions will also influence the variation of display rules. Gender plays a large role in what emotion display rules are acceptable, as most societies govern what emotions are considered acceptable for a man or women, the role of gender and display rules can also play a role in workforces. Both the structural model of appraisal and Schachter and Singer's two-factor theory provide sound explanations regarding how emotion display rules vary depending on the emotion developed and how the individual appraises the situation they are in. In the structural model, individuals emotion display rules will differ depending on how they appraise the situation they are in and how they can cope in said situation, whilst the two-factor theory, emotion display rules will differ as the individual evaluate the physiological arousal they are experiencing and determines whether they should express they emotion congruent with the physiological feelings, or engage in an expression management strategy in order to conform to their respective emotion display rules.

Whilst the research discussed in this book chapter is sound in explaining theories regarding emotion display rules, how they are developed and they vary, there are limitations and suggestions for future research. Firstly, in the study regarding infants there was only discussion surrounding the influence of the mother's expressions, it would be beneficial for future research to examine whether other family members play a role in the development of an infant's emotion display rules as well. As the study discussed regarding childhood development of emotion display rules was conducted in the 1970s it would be beneficial to replicate this study in a more modern setting and see if the consumption of modern technology (iPads, video games) influence the development of children's emotion display rules; it would also be interesting to examine whether the development of emotion display rules in children is influenced by different family units (same-sex parents, single-parents) as this was not considered in any of the studies. In regards to adulthood and gender, studies only discussed specific workforces such as nursing, flight attendants, human resources and debt collecting, it would be beneficial to see if there are any other fields in which gendered emotion display roles are apparent, or if an individual working in an opposite-gender dominated field feels the need to conform to their respective gendered emotion display rules, or conforms to the emotion display roles associated with the opposite gender. It would also be interesting for studies to examine whether peer influence is as apparent in adult relationships as it is in childhood and adolescence.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Banerjee, M. (1997). Hidden Emotions: preschoolers' knowledge of appearance-reality and emotion display rules. Social Cognition, 15(2), 107-132.

Brody, L. (2010). Gender and Emotion: Beyond Stereotypes. Journal Of Social Issues, 53(2), 369-393.

Chaplin, T. (2014). Gender and Emotion Expression: A Developmental Contextual Perspective. Emotion Review, 7(1), 14-21.

Diefendorff, J., & Greguras, G. (2008). Contextualizing Emotional Display Rules: Examining the Roles of Targets and Discrete Emotions in Shaping Display Rule Perceptions. Journal Of Management, 35(4), 880-898.

Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. (1969). The Repertoire of Nonverbal Behavior: Categories, Origins, Usage, and Coding. Semiotica, 1(1), 53-73.

Jones, D., Abbey, B., & Cumberland, A. (1998). The development of display rule knowledge: linkages with family expressiveness and social competence. Child Development, 69(4), 1209.

Lazarus, R. (1991). Progress on a cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion. American Psychologist, 46(8), 819-834.

Lim, N. (2016). Cultural differences in emotion: differences in emotional arousal level between the east and the west. Integrative Medicine Research, 5(2), 105-109.

Malatesta, C., & Haviland, J. (1982). Learning display rules: the socialisation of emotion expression in infancy. Child Development, 53(4), 991.

McDowell, D., & Parke, R. (2000). Differential Knowledge of Display Rules for Positive and Negative Emotions: Influences from Parents, Influences on Peers. Social Development, 9(4), 415-432.

Reisenzein, R. (1983). The Schachter theory of emotion: Two decades later. Psychological Bulletin, 94(2), 239-264.

Saarni, C. (1979). Children's understanding of display rules for expressive behaviour. Developmental Psychology, 15(4), 424-429.

Safdar, S., Friedlmeier, W., Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S., Kwantes, C., Kakai, H., & Shigemasu, E. (2009). Variations of emotional display rules within and across cultures: a comparison between Canada, USA, and Japan. Canadian Journal Of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement, 41(1), 1-10. /

Simpson, P., & Stroh, L. (2004). Gender Differences: Emotional Expression and Feelings of Personal Inauthenticity. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 89(4), 715-721.

Von Salisch, M. (2001). Children’s emotional development: Challenges in their relationships to parents, peers, and friends. International Journal Of Behavioral Development, 25(4), 310-319.

Zeman, J., & Garber, J. (1996). Display Rules for Anger, Sadness, and Pain: It Depends on Who Is Watching. Child Development, 67(3), 957. Diefendorff, J., Erickson, R., Grandey, A., & Dahling, J. (2011). Emotional display rules as work unit norms: a multilevel analysis of emotional labour among nurses. Journal Of Occupational Health Psychology, 16(2), 170-186.

External links[edit | edit source]