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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Feb;98(2):301-18. doi: 10.1037/a0017766.

The relationship between displaying and perceiving nonverbal cues of affect: a meta-analysis to solve an old mystery.

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  • 1Organizational Behavior, Olin School of Business, Washington University in St. Louis, 1 Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


The authors address the decades-old mystery of the association between individual differences in the expression and perception of nonverbal cues of affect. Prior theories predicted positive, negative, and zero correlations in performance-given empirical results ranging from r = -.80 to r = +.64. A meta-analysis of 40 effects showed a positive correlation for nonverbal behaviors elicited as intentional communication displays but zero for spontaneous, naturalistic, or a combination of display types. There was greater variation in the results of studies having round robin designs and analyzed with statistics that do not account for the interdependence of data. The authors discuss implications for theorists to distinguish emotional skills in terms of what people are capable of doing versus what people actually do.

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