The link between social value orientations and the interaction partner’s emotional facial expression as regards the perception of other individuals’ traits and a change in the observer’s social value orientation


Joanna Lewczuk

Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw

Stawki Street, 5/7, 00-183 Warsaw, Poland

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The paper fits into the trend in the research into the link between social value orientations and the perception of a facial emotional expression. The issues addressed in this paper relate to two topic areas: the link between social value orientations and the assessment of the characteristics of another individual displaying various emotions on their face, and a possible change in the observer’s social value orientation under the influence of a specific emotional expression being perceived on another individual’s face.

An “omnibus” type representative survey was carried out according the the experimental scheme, entirely via the Internet (N = 972). The following tools were used: for the measurement of social value orientations, a modified version of the Ring Measure of Social Values (Liebrand, 1984); for the experimental manipulation, photographs of facial expressions (happiness, anger, neutrality); a scale for the assessment of the perception of the individuals presented on the photographs.

As expected, a link was demonstrated between the cooperative orientation and a high level of trust in, and positive assessments of a person displaying a facial expression of happiness. What was also revealed was the diversity of the perception of a person displaying various facial expressions (especially neutrality and happiness) depending on the type of (general and specific) indicators of social value orientations. In general, a person with a smiling and neutral facial expression was assessed significantly more positively (and more trust was put in that person) by prosocials (those with a high degree of the orientation on the others; cooperators and altruists) than by those oriented proself (those with a high degree of the orientation on oneself; competitors and individualists).

In the light of the data obtained, one may, for the very first time, speak of social value orientations as of a dimension being susceptible to a change under the influence of a facial expression. A diversity of the indicators of the orientation on the others was shown, as well as of the distribution of the groups of the dominant social value orientations before and after the experimental manipulation, depending on the type of a basic facial emotional expression being presented (happiness vs anger). Directional predictions were confirmed with regard to the negative manipulation which was followed by a reduction in the orientation on the others and a reduction in the total number of altruists, while the positive manipulation resulted in a general increase being observed in the number of altruists, which remains in line with the trend in predictions that observation of a positive facial expression triggers prosocial tendencies, while observation of a negative facial expression undermines prosocial tendencies.

            The results were given an interpretation, and areas were suggested in which it was worth planning additional researches that might provide the knowledge required to draw final conclusions. The fact was highlighted that specific methodological solutions which might have influenced the structure of results were applied.  


Keywords: social value orientations; prosociality; perception of people; variability of social value orientations; Ring Measure of Social Values; facial emotional expressions.


DOI 10.15503/emeth2014-45-72

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