My main research interests:Human interactions almost always are emotional. Be it only a welcoming smile or the shared anger or upset when a friend or co-worker shares their upset. My research focuses on the social and context factors that influence emotion communication, such as gender, age, or intergroup relations.
Two lines of investigation are at the core of this research. First, I am studying the influence of context and emotion expression on person perception. Specifically, the emotional reactions of others are interpreted by others as indicative of the expressers characters, beliefs and values. This process, the reverse engineering of emotions, plays an important role in first impressions. Thus, a person who behaves in non-expected or non-normative ways, for example someone who smiles at a funeral, is perceived more negatively and observes feel most distant to them.
Second, people not only observe others and draw conclusions about them, but they also react to the expressions they observe. One such reaction is emotional mimicry, the imitation of the emotional expression of others. Emotional mimicry plays an important role in fostering smooth and pleasant interactions, but it also depends on an initial positive affiliative attitude. Together these two processes explain whether and how well we interact with the people we encounter. This research has important implications for, amongst others, intergroup relations and cross-cultural communication.
More recently my research focusses on the interaction of these two processes, that is, on the top-down influence of person perception processes on emotional mimicry. We further strive to explicitly address the role or situational and social context information on this interaction. Related research focuses on the role of emotion regulation to conform to social norms at the workplace (i.e. service with a smile) and in social interactions in general.
Department of Psychology
Humboldt University of Berlin
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin
Ursula.Hess at hu-berlin.de