Graduation Year

Spring 2011

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Catherine L. Reed

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2011 Kathryn Mgrublian


Recent research has documented that we tend to use the face to express some emotions, but use the body to express other emotions. To understand the contributions of the body to non-verbal emotional communication, we compared the performance of able-bodied participants who were allowed to express emotions naturally (standing) to able-bodied participants who were confined to a wheelchair. Theories of embodied emotion would predict that restraining the use of the body should change emotion production and communication confidence, especially for body-related emotions. Participants expressed six different emotions in three conditions: 1) naturally, 2) face only, and 3) body only. After each trial, they indicated their confidence that they effectively communicated the emotion. Results indicated that for emotion production, both groups used primarily the face to express happiness and disgust. We predicted that participants in the wheelchair group would use the face more to express body-related emotions, but our findings show that the extinction of body occurs with specific emotions. Like the standing group, wheelchair participants used their bodies to express submissive emotions of embarrassment and fear. In contrast, they showed a distinct lack of body use for emotional displays expressing higher status or dominant emotions--pride and anger. Nonetheless, confidence in communication did not differ across groups despite production differences. These findings suggest that current body states affect how emotions are expressed. In terms of embodied emotion theory, body restrictions may make a person feel less pride or anger. From an evolutionary standpoint, it might be that displaying pride or anger when one is less physically able reduces one’s chance for survival.