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Emotion. 2009 Oct;9(5):631-9. doi: 10.1037/a0017089.

Knowing who's boss: implicit perceptions of status from the nonverbal expression of pride.

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Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Evolutionary theory suggests that the universal recognition of nonverbal expressions of emotions functions to enhance fitness. Specifically, emotion expressions may send survival-relevant messages to other social group members, who have the capacity to automatically interpret these signals. In the present research, we used 3 different implicit association methodologies to test whether the nonverbal expression of pride sends a functional, automatically perceived signal about a social group member's increased social status. Results suggest that the pride expression strongly signals high status, and this association cannot be accounted for by positive valence or artifacts of the expression such as expanded size due to outstretched arms. These findings suggest that the pride expression may function to uniquely communicate the high status of those who show it. Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for social functions of emotion expressions and the automatic communication of status.

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