Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The force of affective norms - the stranger effect

Szczurek et al. make a more distanced and structured description of an experience we all have had - being put on guard in a chat with another person if their facial expressions and body language do not appropriately mirror or complement our own:

What happens when affective displays deviate from normative expectations? In this study, participants evaluated target individuals displaying flat, incongruent, or congruent expressions seemingly in response to pictures eliciting positive, neutral, or negative affect. Relative to targets who displayed normative reactions, those who violated affective norms (affective deviants) were rated more negatively on various dimensions of social judgment. Participants also preferred greater social distance from affective deviants, reported more moral outrage in response to them, and inferred that these targets did not share their moral values. Incongruent affect resulted in more negative social judgment than did flat affect, and this relationship was moderated by stimulus valence. Finally, the relationship between targets’ affective expressions and participants’ avoidant intentions was mediated by the extent to which participants thought the targets shared their moral values. These findings demonstrate the interpersonal costs of affective deviance, revealing the pervasiveness and force of affective norms.

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