It was tested whether professional actors would be able to communicate emotional meaning via facial expression when this is presented to judges without context information. Forty takes were selected from movies, depicting a female or a male actor in close-up showing facial expression.
These close-ups were selected by two expert judges, who knew the complete movie and had to agree on the emotion expressed or expected to be expressed by the female or male actor in the respective take. Five takes each were selected to represent the basic emotions of joy, sadness, fear, and anger.
Twenty takes each were selected showing female and male actors. These 40 takes (edited in random order onto video tape) were presented to 90 judges (about half female and half male; about half younger pupils and about half older ones), whose task it was to judge the emotion(s) expressed on nine 5-point-emotion scales.
Results indicated that female actors are somewhat better (though not statistically significant) in communicating emotion via facial expression without context than male actors are. Furthermore, significant interactions between portrayed emotion and gender of actors were found:
While recognition rate for joy is very high and identical for both genders, female actors seem to be superior in communicating fear and sadness via facial expression, while male actors are more successful in communicating anger.
A ldquodisplay rulerdquo approach seems to be appropriate for the interpretation of these results, indicating that gender-specific attempts to control/inhibit certain emotions do not only exist in ldquoreal liferdquo, but also in movies.
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