Emotion Expression In Body Action And Posture

Dael, N., Mortillaro, M., & Scherer, K. (2012) Emotion expression in body action and posture. Emotion, 12(5), 1085-1101.



Emotion communication research strongly focuses on the face and voice as expressive modalities, leaving the rest of the body relatively understudied. Contrary to the early assumption that body movement only indicates emotional intensity, recent studies show that body movement and posture also convey emotion specific information. However, a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms is hampered by a lack of production studies informed by a theoretical framework.

In this research we adopted the Body Action and Posture (BAP) coding system to examine the types and patterns of body movement that are employed by 10 professional actors to portray a set of 12 emotions. We investigated to what extent these expression patterns support explicit or implicit predictions from basic emotion theory, bi-dimensional theory, and componential appraisal theory. The overall results showed partial support for the different theoretical approaches. They revealed that several patterns of body movement systematically occur in portrayals of specific emotions, allowing emotion differentiation. While a few emotions were prototypically encoded by one particular pattern, most emotions were variably expressed by multiple patterns, many of which can be explained as reflecting functional components of emotion such as modes of appraisal and action readiness. It is concluded that further work in this largely underdeveloped area should be guided by an appropriate theoretical framework to allow a more systematic design of experiments and clear hypothesis testing. 


The supplementary material for this paper is available on this webpage.

Variable list: all behavior variables that were coded with the BAP coding system 

Gemep Videos: The  file supplements Figure 2 in the paper with a selection of GEMEP videos that illustrate some of the behaviors representative for these clusters.