Facial and vocal expressions of emotion. For my study I will focus on expressing emotion in nonverbal communication.
Talking Without Speaking
First I will look at facial expressions of emotion, specifically smiling. Smiling while talking to my daughter and then observing to see if it affects her behavior. My daughter is autistic and I have always noticed that she smiles more when I smile while talking to her. So I will observe her facial expressions as I smile while talking to her for 10 minutes straight.
I will also observe the vocal expressions of emotion displayed in the communication that I have with my children. By using a more joyful and happy tone of voice while talking to them, will it make them have a more joyful and happy tone to their voices as well? I will check and see if my tone of voice has an effect on the tone of voice they have with each other.
The Importance of All Communication
Facial expressions of emotion are “a central part of our experience as social beings” (Floyd, 2016) and having a child with Autism has made me more aware of the different facial expressions I am making while speaking with her. Since she seems to sometimes mimic my behaviors and body language. When I smile with her in a one on one setting she always smiles back and tells me that she loves me. It is one of my favorite things she does.
I wanted to see if she would smile more while talking to me on facetime if I was smiling the whole time. The setting was just her in her room and me sitting on the couch in my living room, but specifically we were facetiming and I just smiled the whole time.
My Own Research
There are many studies about autism spectrum disorder and facial expressions mixed with emotion. “Many researchers have studied the processing of facial emotional expressions in ASD, yielding inconclusive and highly mixed findings” (Evers, Steyaert, Noens, & Wagemans, 2015). So I was curious that if I just smiled the whole time we were talking how it would affect her behavior.
As I was smiling she just smiled the whole time back at me, sometimes she would laugh and then of course tell me she loves me, like she often does. Her telling me that she loves me sometimes comes out of nowhere and she just gives me a hug. She gave me more hugs because of me smiling more.
The Delivery Counts
The second nonverbal language that I observed was my tone of voice that I used around my children. Sometimes when I am talking to my children if I am not careful on what tone of voice I am using they misunderstand the message I intend.
I was in the United States Marine Corps and after a few deployments I tend to talk louder than necessary sometimes because of my hearing. This forces me to always be a little more mindful of my tone of voice, specifically because my daughter is a little more sensitive to loud noises. Because my daughter has always been more sensitive to loud noises, so has my son. He isn’t on the spectrum but he is very similar to her in his response to loud noises.
So I wanted to observe them both when I was more aware of the tone of voice that I was using. My daughter was more energetic with her responses back than my son was. She mimicked my happy tone of voice more than he did. He actually at first was the opposite of energetic and put his head down. But as time when on he also got more excited. I noticed that they also were more excited in their tone of voice as I continued talking in a happy more energetic tone myself.
Both of the nonverbal communications that I used, facial and vocal expressions of emotion were similar in my opinion. Because when you are smiling it affects your tone of voice. So in order to appear to be happy and having joy you should be smiling.
1. Floyd, K. (2017). Interpersonal communication. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
2. Evers, K., Steyaert, J., Noens, I., & Wagemans, J. (2015). Reduced Recognition of Dynamic Facial Emotional Expressions and Emotion-Specific Response Bias in Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(6), 1774-1784. doi:10.1007/s10803-014-2337-x