To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

The face is the index of the mind: understanding the association between self-construal and facial expressions

Defeng Yang (School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China)
Hao Shen (Department of Marketing, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)
Robert S. Wyer (Department of Marketing, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 26 January 2021

Issue publication date: 17 June 2021

308

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine the relationship between consumers’ emotional expressions and their self-construals. The authors suggest that because an independent self-construal can reinforce the free expression of emotion, the expression of extreme emotions is likely to become associated with feelings of independence through social learning.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper includes five studies. Study 1A provided evidence that priming participants with different types of self-construal can influence the extremity of their emotional expressions. Study 1B showed that chronic self-construal could predict facial expressions of students who were told to smile for a group photograph. Studies 2–4 found that inducing people to either manifest or to simply view an extreme facial expression activated an independent social orientation and influenced their performance on tasks that reflect this orientation.

Findings

The studies provide support for a bidirectional causal relationship between individuals’ self-construals and the extremity of their emotional expressions. They show that people’s general social orientation could predict the spontaneous facial expressions that they manifest in their daily lives.

Research limitations/implications

Although this research was generally restricted to the effects of smiling, similar considerations influence the expression of other emotions. That is, dispositions to exhibit extreme expressions can generalize over different types of emotions. To this extent, expressions of sadness, anger or fear might be similarly associated with people’s social orientation and the behavior that is influenced by it.

Practical implications

The paper provides marketing implications into how marketers can influence consumers’ choices of unique options and how marketers can assess consumers’ social orientation based on their observation of consumers’ emotional expressions.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this research is the first to demonstrate a bidirectional causal relationship between individuals’ self-construals and the extremity of their emotional expressions, and to demonstrate the association between chronic social orientation and emotional expression people spontaneously make in their daily lives.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the financial support provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71872073), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 19JNYH02) and the research grant CUHK14502517 from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong.

Citation

Yang, D., Shen, H. and Wyer, R.S. (2021), "The face is the index of the mind: understanding the association between self-construal and facial expressions", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 6, pp. 1664-1678. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-03-2019-0295

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles