Saturday, December 27, 2014

End-year Special: Information processing of emotional signals(4)

When an observer perceives an emotion, how he interprets it and his reaction to it depends on his motivation and ability to process the information conveyed by that emotion. By processing that information, the observer seeks to understand it and to relate it to himself whether for good or bad.

Let’s take an example. When one is forced to find answers to ambiguities such as racism and authority, his response, whether he is affected by the question and reacts emotionally to it or avails himself of every means to find suitable answers depends on if he seeks immediate answers or wants deeply probed and meditated answers. Psychologists refer to this as the need for closure. Persons with a high need for closure, or for immediate answers, have shallow information processing motivation. They tend to accept the status quo, are averse to diversity and diverse opinions, are influenced more by emotions and react to it, resist change, adopt conservative views and are easily law abiding. They usually have reduced creativity. Generally, individuals with high need for closure have low powers of processing emotional information and tend to react to rather than make inferences from perceived emotions.

A related study on persuasion and need for closure found that persons who were low on the need for closure were easily persuaded and receptive to divergent opinions because they had high information processing abilities.

In the area of leadership, followers with high information processing abilities are better able to interpret the negative emotions, like anger, of their leader and infer that they had to work harder while followers with low information processing abilities are more receptive to happiness or positive emotions. If the leader becomes angry, they become annoyed and then dislike the leader.

Power also reduces an individual’s ability to correctly process information and draw inferences from emotional expressions. People with low power can easily make inferences and more objective than those who have power.

The next blog article, Series 5: The social context in responding and interpreting emotions, will examine how cultural norms shape our reaction and interpretation of emotions.

The rest of the series:

  1. How to use emotions to Human Advantage (Introduction).
  2. Series 1: How emotions can function as message bearers.
  3. Series 2: Why emotions can drive a second emotional response.
  4. Series 3: How emotions play a part in decision making.
  5. Series 4: Information processing of emotional signals.
  6. Series 5: The social context in responding and interpreting emotions.
  7. Series 6: Implications of using emotions as social information tokens.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments here!