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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Are you looking at me? : an objective state of mind reduces sensitivity to other's emotional expressions Liu, Manlu


An objective state of mind refers to a mental state in which people perceive themselves as the object of another’s observation. Previous research has shown that this state affects people’s metacognitive process, emotional experience, and social behavior. An objective mental state often arises during everyday social interaction, but few studies have investigated how it influences one’s social perception during an encounter. Here we examine how the perception of others’ emotion is influenced by triggering an objective state of mind. We developed an online experiment using webcams, questions, and pre-programmed conversations to manipulate participants’ mental states. We then measured their accuracy in reading the emotional expressions of people they believed they were interacting with. Three conditions were compared. In the Evaluated condition, participants were asked to classify the emotional expressions of two study assistants, after being informed that one of the assistants might select them as a partner in a competitive game. In the Evaluating condition, different participants classified the emotional expressions of the same assistants, but this time believing that they would be able to select one assistant as a game partner. In the Neutral condition, the same emotion classification task was performed, but participants were not given any other instructions. The results showed that participants in the Evaluated condition were significantly less accurate in classifying emotions than in the other two conditions. We interpret this finding as supporting the view that an objective mental state reduces the ability to read other’s emotional cues. We discuss possible mechanisms by which this may occur, including increased stress, divided attention, and the role of latent imitation in forming empathy for others.

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