Perception of tearful faces


The famous crying boy - Giovanni Bragolin
In several projects we study how people perceive those who shed a tear. We find that someone who is seen crying is perceived as warmer/friendlier and that the tear induces helping behavior in observers, pointing to the possible function that tears have. Especially the large cross-cultural Registered Report is one of the papers I'm most proud of: A huge collaboration, that allows testing quite some moderators and cultural effects (but still has plenty left to explore for others, see below!).

For the studies, we used Marco Anelli's beautiful portraits of tearful faces , for which we also made versions with the tears digitally removed. We then had respondents rate the faces, with and without the tear present. The pictures are just beautiful in itself, see https://www.marcoanelli.com/portraits-new-edition/.

Vingerhoets, A. J. J. M., Van de Ven, N., & Van der Velden, Y. (2016). The Social Impact of Emotional Tears. Motivation and Emotion, 40(3), 455-463. doi: 10.1007/s11031-016-9543-0
[tearful faces elicit a willingness to help, because the tearful person is perceived to feel helpless and people feel more connected to them]

Van de Ven, N., Meijs, M. H. J., Vingerhoets, A. (2017). What Emotional Tears Convey: Tearful Individuals Are Seen as Warmer, But Also as Less Competent. British Journal of Social Psychology, 56, 146-160. doi: 10.1111/bjso.12162
[we predicted and found that tearful faces would be perceived as warmer and friendlier, but also as less competent. however, this latter finding was later not replicated in a follow-up study by Janis Zickfeld & Thomas Schubert.  but see the next papers for more nuance on this]

Zickfeld, J. H., Van de Ven, N., Schubert, T. W., & Vingerhoets, A. (2018). Are Tearful Individuals Perceived as Less Competent? Probably Not. Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, 3,  119-139. doi: 10.1080/23743603.2018.1514254
[as we had found a clear effect of tears on perceived competence, but Janis & Thomas did not, we collaborated to figure out what happened. we created a Registered Report where in stages we would see where their result started to deviate from ours. in a fully direct replication, the competence effect was replicated. however, later it turned out that with a larger stimulus set of faces, the effect was no longer there. the conclusion is that that the competence effect was to stimuli dependent. but again, see the last paper in this list for even more nuance]
 Zickfeld, J. H., Van de Ven, N., Pich, O., Schubert, T. W., Berkessel, J. B., Pizarro, J. J., … Vingerhoets, A.J.J.M.  (2021).  Tears Trigger the Intention to Offer Social Support: A Systematic Investigation of the Interpersonal Effects of Emotional Crying Across 41 Countries. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 95, 104137. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2021.104137
[in this large collaboration (~100 authors) we set out to further study and test the perception of tears in a Registered Report. with over 7000 respondents from over 40 countries across the world, we could test a complex 2x3x2x2x5 design and include multiple hypotheses. we replicate the finding that tears elicit help in others, across the world. we find little situational moderators nor effects of gender, but do find some in-group effects. above all, the effect we initially documented in WEIRD countries seems to hold across the world]

note that the data of this project are all openly available! with our 2x3x2x2x5 design and cultural variation, there will likely be many more potential hypotheses to test in this data.  one such example is the following paper:
Wróbel, M., Wągrowska, J., Zickfeld, J. H., & Van de Ven, N. (2022). Tears do not influence competence in general, but only under specific circumstances: A systematic investigation across 41 countries. Emotion, 22, 292-304. doi: 10.1037/emo0001010
[in this paper we revisit the competence effect for which we had found mixed results. re-testing this effect in our large cross-cultural dataset, we found that tears have no general effect on perceptions of competence but do reduce competence when crying is regarded as inappropriate (e.g., there is no clear reason for shedding tears) or when the target is perceived as helpless. moreover, shedding tears increases competence when the target is perceived as honest]


Publications


The Social Impact of Emotional Tears


Ad Vingerhoets, Niels van de Ven, Yvonne van der Velden

Motivation and Emotion, vol. 40(3), 2016, pp. 455-463


What Emotional Tears Convey: Tearful Individuals Are Seen as Warmer, But Also as Less Competent


Niels van de Ven, Maartje Meijs, Ad Vingerhoets

British Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 56, 2017, pp. 146-160


Are Tearful Individuals Perceived as Less Competent? Probably Not


Janis Zickfeld, Niels van de Ven, Thomas Schubert, Ad Vingerhoets

Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, vol. 3, 2018, pp. 119-139


Tears Trigger the Intention to Offer Social Support: A Systematic Investigation of the Interpersonal Effects of Emotional Crying Across 41 Countries


Janis Zickfeld, Niels van de Ven, Olivia Pich, Thomas Schubert, ...., Ad Vingerhoets

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 95, 2021, p. 104137


Tears do not influence competence in general, but only under specific circumstances: A systematic investigation across 41 countries


Monika Wróbel, Julia Wągrowska, Janis Zickfeld, Niels van de Ven

Emotion, 2022, pp. 292-304




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